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16-0: Colts vs. Saints

Which NFL team has the best chance of finishing undefeated?
By Eric Schmoldt and Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
November 18th, 2009

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The New Orleans Saints needed to hold on against one of the NFL's worst teams. The Indianapolis Colts took advantage of a gift from one of the game's best.

The league's two remaining undefeated teams each avoided their closest scares of the season in Week 10. Will it be the closest the Saints and Colts come to losing this year? Which remaining week presents the biggest hurdle? Is there any chance we see two undefeated teams in one season?

With seven weeks remaining, we try to tackle all of those questions.

The St. Louis Rams seemed like the least likely team to give New Orleans fits. After all, the Saints had won six of their eight games by two scores or more. But the Rams held tough and were only defeated when Marc Bulgerís last-ditch heave went unrewarded.

Now the Saints, who have tied a franchise record with nine straight victories, are seven weeks away from a perfect season.

The good news for Drew Brees and New Orleans is that they face four teams that currently have losing records. The bad news is that they've still got New England - the team that had Indianapolis beat last week until a late-game blunder - still on the schedule.

Based on 10,001 simulations of each game left on the NFL schedule (see below), the Saints have an 89% chance of setting a franchise record with a 10-0 start against Tampa Bay this weekend, but there's little doubt that their stiffest remaining test will come in Week 12 against the Patriots. New Orleans gets New England at home and, according to our current numbers, the Saints take down the Patriots nearly two-thirds of the time and by about a touchdown.

If New Orleans makes it past New England, it will almost certainly get by Washington to go 12-0 in Week 13. Then it's on to back-to-back weeks against NFC playoff contenders. Still, at this point, they win three of every four matchups at Atlanta and hosting Dallas, beating each team by about a touchdown as well.

And if they get through that gauntlet, they could be smooth-sailing to 16-0 with a better than 80% chance of taking down Tampa Bay - again - and Carolina to close out the season.

The Saints never have lower than a 65% chance of losing any individual game. But winning all seven of those in a row is another thing. While favored in every game, New Orleans has just a 22.0% chance to duplicate New England's 2007 feat and finish the regular season unblemished.

With regards to the individual statistics we project as part of our fantasy football analysis, Drew Brees finishes the rest of the season with 2,021 passing yards, 17 TDs and 6 INTs to give him a season total of 4,580 yards, 38 TDs and 15 INTs. The team scores 229 points and allows 142 to finish the year averaging exactly 35 points a game and giving up 21.8 a contest.

New Orleans Projected Results in Remaining Games:

WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
11@Tampa Bay Buccaneers8933-18
12New England Patriots6632-25
13@Washington Redskins8932-17
14@Atlanta Falcons7630-23
15Dallas Cowboys7634-22
16Tampa Bay Buccaneers8936-15
17@Carolina Panthers8232-22

The Patriots had the Colts dead to rights on Sunday. And if not for the fourth-down decision heard round the world, Indianapolis might not even be included in this discussion. Instead, Peyton Manning took advantage of New England's turnover on downs and turned it into a 9-0 start.

The toughest part of the Colts' challenge of getting to 16-0 might really be getting to 12-0. And they face their toughest remaining hurdle right away this week as they travel to Baltimore. The Ravens are 5-4 and trying to find themselves after a strong start.

Based on 10,001 simulations of each game left on the NFL schedule (see below), Indianapolis wins 65% of the time by an average of five points.

If the Colts can get by the Ravens, they get another road test at Houston where they win 74% of the time and by just six points. Then they'll host the up-and-coming Tennessee Titans, where they win 75% of the time.

The difficulty of Indianapolis' schedule certainly comes in the next three weeks. If the Colts can survive three more games, they could be in the clear. With the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills on the slate over the final five weeks, the Colts are not projected to lose more than 20% of the time in 10,001 computer simulations against each of those teams.

While that daunting three-week stretch looks brutal, Indianapolis actually has a better chance of going 16-0 than New Orleans, by mere percentage points. The Colts never have lower than a 69% chance to win any of their remaining games individually, but putting a seven-game streak on top of the nine-game roll they've already put together only occurs 22.2% of the time (just slightly more likely than the Saints).

According to our fantasy football projections, Peyton Manning finishes the rest of the season with 1,858 passing yards, 15 TDs and 4 INTs to give him a total of 4,730 yards, 45 TDs and 11 INTs. The team scores 202 points and allows 123 to finish the year averaging 28.4 points a game and giving up 16.6 a contest.

Indianapolis Projected Results in Remaining Games:

WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
11@Baltimore Ravens6925-20
12@Houston Texans7426-20
13Tennessee Titans7528-19
14Denver Broncos8830-15
15@Jacksonville Jaguars8328-19
16New York Jets8934-14
17@Buffalo Bills8931-16

Never have two teams ever gone undefeated in the same season. Don't expect it to happen this season, either. But as with anything, there is a chance.

The Colts and Saints finish a combined 32-0 just 4.88% of the time. With each team having just over a 1 in 5 chance of ending the regular season without a loss, there is about a 1 in 20 chance that both teams do it.

Want to know where these teams rank in NFL history? Try our free NFL SimMatchup tool to play any current team against any team since 1940.

Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in NCAA Matchup analysis and college football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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