Checkdowns: In which week is Atlanta most likely to suffer its first loss?

In this post by Neil, he provided a formula to predict each team’s likelihood of winning a game based on the Vegas point spread. With the help of the SRS, we can come up with a projected point spread for each game, and therefore figure out which team is most likely to give the Falcons their first loss.

The table below shows the SRS rating for Atlanta and each of their remaining opponents, along with the projected point spread in the game (based on the difference between the two SRS scores and home field) and the concomitant projected win probability. Note that in the Dallas game, the projected line is Atlanta -8.6, which would yield a 73.2% win probability; since the actual line is Atlanta -4, for the purposes of that game, I will be using the real line and not the projected one.

WkOppATL SRSOPP SRSProj LineWin Prob
9Dallas Cowboys7.51.9-461.3%
10@New Orleans Saints7.5-3.3-7.871.3%
11Arizona Cardinals7.5-0.6-11.178.8%
12@Tampa Bay Buccaneers7.53.1-1.454%
13New Orleans Saints7.5-3.3-13.884%
14@Carolina Panthers7.5-1-5.565.4%
15New York Giants7.510-0.551.4%
16@Detroit Lions7.5-0.5-564.1%
17Tampa Bay Buccaneers7.53.1-7.470.3%

As you can see, the Falcons are projected to be a favorite in every remaining game, with the Giants game looming as the most difficult challenge. The probability of Atlanta winning each of their remaining 9 games is only 2.4%.

But figuring out which team is most likely to be the first to defeat the Falcons is a trickier question. The Cowboys are the obvious pick, in part because they’re up first and in part because they’re one of the most challenging remaining opponents for the Falcons. What are the odds that the Giants become the first team to knock off the Falcons, like they did to the Patriots in ’07 and the Broncos in ’98? For that to happen, the Giants would need to beat Atlanta (51.4%) plus the Falcons would need to beat Dallas, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans twice before their game with New York. The probability of Atlanta winning all of those games is just 10.2%, so there is only a 1-in-20 chance that New York performs its giant-killer act again.

To calculate the odds of the opponent in each week being “the team” to knock off the Falcons, we simply have to perform the same math. Therefore, the table below shows the likelihood of Atlanta first losing (in each week) to each team:

WkOpponentProb
9Dallas Cowboys38.7%
10New Orleans Saints17.6%
12Tampa Bay Buccaneers15.9%
11Arizona Cardinals9.3%
14Carolina Panthers5.4%
15New York Giants5%
13New Orleans Saints3%
16-0Undefeated2.4%
16Detroit Lions1.9%
17Tampa Bay Buccaneers1%

Even though they’re not favored to win the game, since we can’t pick “the field”, the Cowboys are the team most likely to ruin the Falcons’ perfect season. As of today, New Orleans is next with a 20.6% chance thanks to two bites at the apple; meanwhile, the Falcons are more likely to go undefeated than they are to go 14-0 only to have the Lions ruin perfection.