The New Orleans Saints are defiant, losers of 2 of their last 3 who still have a simple path to a division crown in front of them. “We still control everything,” tackle Terron Armstead told an ESPN reporter on Monday.
Could it be that odds-makers over-estimate the Saints as a team while also under-estimating their offense? Drew Brees has struggled to find his usual passing lanes in recent road losses to the Rams and the Falcons. But other teams have gotten credit from Vegas (judging by the odds) for wins and tight defeats against far-less formidable opposition. L.A. and Atlanta are above-average NFL cities these days.
The Fleur de Lis is still a great scoring unit at home. The Panthers and Redskins have each visited over the past month and lost while giving up 30+ points each.
Also, the Saints are 9-4 and should absolutely be favored against a team like the New York Jets. But thanks to a terrible momentum-killing injury in New York, the point spread is tall, big and fat…at least by NFL-odds standards.
Who: New York Jets at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday, December 17th, 1 PM EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Lines: NYJ (+16) at NOS (-16) / O/U Total (47)
The O/U total of (47) gives away that odds-makers are concerned about both offenses. If laughingstock-turned-respected gunslinger Josh McCown were taking the field on Sunday, bookies would expect the Jets to make some noise and force the Saints to rev-up their passing game.
But McCown is out and needing surgery, leaving the dressing room in a tearful and heartfelt moment. McCown earned something more valuable than a Super Bowl trophy with his surprise mid-season run…respect. But the team sits at 5-7, and pundits have serious doubts about Bryce Petty, the veteran’s young replacement.
Petty was mostly awful in 4 starts last season. He is tall but not exceptionally fast or elusive, with only 1 carry for 7 yards and 3 touchdown passes in his career. A Baylor product, he is still most-comfortable throwing the bubble screen followed by the back-door deep ball & surprise jet-sweep. The Jets are not adept at using such QBs.
Todd Bowles can’t make the same mistake twice. Give Petty a few spread-option concepts and easy throws early in the game, give Bilal Powell a few more touches than he’s been getting, and the Saint defense could prove vulnerable. After all, New Orleans failed to shut down either Chicago or Washington at home. But ask the green-horn Big 12 standout behind center to hand off on the stretch, then waggle and go through a 3-WR read? Forget it.
The Saints have seen their running game start to come back to Earth a little bit. Numbers like Mark Ingram’s 5.1 ypc and Alvin Kamara’s 7.0 ypc are eye-popping and suggest total domination. But nobody’s got 1000 yards yet, and no other New Orleans tailback has more than a single 1st-down conversion.
That leaves Brees in his familiar role – throwing downfield enough to scare the opposition while hurting them with one quick check-down after another. Kamara is a nightmare to cover coming out of the backfield, but he is questionable to perform on Sunday after suffering a mild concussion and will probably be relegated to 3rd downs.
The host defense will be challenged a little more if Jeremy Kerley, who is returning from a suspension this weekend, plays significant minutes for the Jets.
We think the Jets will try opening-up into the type of spread offense Petty prefers, and score a few points in the 1st half. That will drive the host offense to respond by opening up in kind. If the visitors come out in a traditional style and fall flat just trying to scrape out 1st downs, this could be Brees’ week to break out again and put up 40+.
Either way, the over (47) is a smart bet here.
ATS, look for the Saints to go up by 17 or possibly more in the 4th quarter and then relax, giving them a 55% chance to cover the 16-point margin.