Sannes' Win Total Projections: Matt Ryan to the Colts and Jameis Winston to the Saints
Arguably the toughest aspect of building out a win total model is projecting passing efficiency for a quarterback on a new team. You have to decide how much of their success -- or failure -- was attributable to their situation in the old spot and whether their new context is better or worse.
The NFL cares not for my airing of grievances.
On Monday, Matt Ryan was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick. To replace him, the Atlanta Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to a bridge-level deal with minimal guarantees. So, we're starting from scratch on both of those.
The other quarterback movement of the day -- Jameis Winston re-signing with the New Orleans Saints -- is at least one backed by some data. But we're getting double-barreled middle fingers here with the musical chairs.
What do these moves mean for the 2022 outlooks of the Colts, Falcons, and Saints? Let's dig in and check it out.
A Competitive AFC South
The word "competitive" might be misleading in the header here. The AFC South is likely to be competitive in the sense that we don't know who will win it; competitive relative to the rest of the AFC? G'luck.
As of now, no AFC South teams are in the top half of the league in my power rankings. So, it's decidedly grim.
But just 0.4 wins separate the Colts from the Tennessee Titans, meaning the top spot is firmly up for grabs.
The Colts with the Ryan addition now sit 21st in my power rankings. That's not overly high.
There is room for growth, though, should they address holes at left tackle and pass-catcher. Ryan appeared cooked at times in 2021, but it's fair to view him as a potential upgrade from Wentz; he just needs some help to actually improve them.
The problem is the Colts don't have a ton of draft resources to make that happen, and they've already missed out on most of the high-level free agents. They're likely to enter 2022 with a squad closely resembling the current makeup. That might be enough to make them feisty in the AFC South, but they're a far cry from making noise in the conference.
The Colts and Titans are both +120 to win the AFC South at FanDuel Sportsbook. I'm fine sitting this one out until we get more clarity on the Colts' final roster as it's unlikely we get any earth-shattering news before then that shifts markets dramatically.
The Falcons Are Gonna Suck
There's a running joke in the numberFire Slack about my undying affection for Mariota. If his name is mentioned, a bot is triggered, saying, "Jim. Stop it. Get some help."
I will not, thank you very much. But the Falcons will need to get Mariota some if they hope to be competent.
Mariota is joining a team that has Kyle Pitts, a poor offensive line, and several garbage cans with wheels at receiver. It's a terrible situation.
I can slobber over Mariota all I want, but this is a brutal situation. And it's not one where we should expect anybody to succeed.
Before the Mariota signing, the Falcons were briefly dead last in my power rankings, below the Houston Texans. They've rebounded all the way to 31st but still have a win total projection of 4.7.
The Falcons are one of the first teams you should turn to once win totals are posted. We should always prefer to bet toward the mean, but if you can get an under on anything higher than five wins, you should take it and run.
An Upgrade for the Saints
The situation around Winston in his return to the Saints is mixed at best. He'll gain Michael Thomas, but with left tackle Terron Armstead gone, the offensive line is not as forceful as it was.
Regardless, this is still an upgrade for the Saints.
We want to be skeptical on 2021 data for Winston because it occurred in a small sample. It also didn't include many of the catastrophic mistakes that cost Winston his starting gig originally. But it was quite good.
Here's the split between the Saints' quarterbacks last year through the lens of numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP). Passing NEP is numberFire's expected-points model that just measures the expected points added (or subtracted) on each drop back. The absence of said subtractions made Winston a standout.
|Saints in 2021||Passing NEP/DB||Drop Backs|
Did I need to include Ian Book? No. Did it make me giggle? A little bit, yes.
There are still some unknowns about the Saints as they enter the post-Sean Payton era. That's amplified if they can't fill left tackle because worse pass protection increases the chances Jameis does Jameis things. But this was a necessary move.
The Saints are currently 17th in my power rankings, projected at 8.7 wins. It's very possible that's above-market on them given all the uncertainty. It's not a spot where you'll want to bet them to challenge to win the division, but this could very well be a team that pops from a win-total perspective.