13 October 2011

On the Road in the Payton Era

The Saints' week six game at Tampa Bay marks a unique moment in the Sean Payton era. This game will be the Saints' third consecutive game on the road, the first time the Saints have played three straight games away from the Superdome under Payton. 

More importantly, this week's game provides the Saints with an opportunity to gain an early-season, two-game lead in the NFC South. Interestingly, as Jeff Duncan pointed out, the Saints will be attempting to win three consecutive road games for the first time since 1987. 

With the importance of this game, combined with the rarity of playing three straight road games, I decided to delve into the Saints' performance on the road under Coach Payton. As we discovered earlier this offseason when examining the Saints' 2011 schedule, the Saints were an excellent 26-17 (60.5%) on the road under Payton heading into 2011.

For this current analysis, I further looked at how the Saints' fared when they played consecutive road games during the Payton era. 

In 2006, the Saints played consecutive road games twice. In '07, twice. In '08-'09-'10, three times. 

In those previous five seasons, in the second of consecutive road games, the Saints are an outstanding 10-3. Conversely, in the first of consecutive road games, the Saints are 6-7. 

So if we're speculating, if we're making guesses based on the limited data available, we can surmise that perhaps the Saints perform better as they acclimate themselves to playing in road environments in the second of consecutive road games. 

Additionally, in the second of consecutive road games, the Saints average a substantial 5.1 points more than they score in the first of consecutive road games (29.8 vs 24.7). 

Moreover, in the second of consecutive road games, the Saints score 2.7 points more than they have averaged overall under Payton (29.8 vs 27.1). 

The defense is also markedly better in the second of consecutive road games. They surrender an average of 7.3 fewer points in the second game than they do the first (19.2 vs 26.5). 

Finally, the Saints allow 3.1 fewer points in the second of consecutive road games than they have overall under Payton (19.2 vs 22.3). 

In short, the Saints have performed better in the second of consecutive road games--in winning percentage, points scored and points allowed--than they have performed on average during the Payton era. 

Anomaly or trend? Obviously, this performance could be attributable to an array of variables or it could simply be a matter of sample-size variance. But it also reinforces the Saints' overall road trends under Payton and is perhaps an accurate indicator of future road game performances. 

This week's game in Tampa will pose a challenge as the Bucs were 3-1 last year in home games following a loss. Additionally the Saints are in uncharted territory, playing their third consecutive road game. 

And finally, with the Bucs stinging from a 45-point loss in week 5 and a pivotal divisional match-up on deck, this should be one of the more interesting and hard-fought games of the season. 

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