The gambling public is reacting to 2 sets of NFC Wild Card odds for this Sunday in 2 very, very different ways.
In New Orleans, it’s all about the favorite. The Saints were unfairly denied an NFC Championship Game victory last season (or so the legend goes) and in a betting landscape dominated by QB evaluation, no one “evaluates” the visiting QB to have a good chance to out-gun the host signal-caller.
Odds have jumped in Old Gold’s direction since opening.
But as for the other NFC scrum in Philadelphia, Wild Card Game bettors like the underdog – so much that they’ve turned that “underdog” into a minus-moneyline (and point spread) favorite by mid-week.
It’s clear that the regular season’s overall lesson of parity’s *poof* absence from the picture hasn’t sunk in on a majority of NFL speculators. Instead, they’re thinking about specifics – how a stud OT can help keep a HOF passer safe to pick-apart the Vikings, and how another potential HOF quarterback can potentially overcome a horror-show of injuries.
We’ll focus on our titular match-up for now. Are the New Orleans Saints really a good wager against the spread as an (-8) point favorite in the Superdome?
Who: Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday, December 5th, 1:05 PM EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Lines: MINN (+8) at NO (-8) / O/U Total: (49.5)
I wasn’t sure why Green Bay was being discounted as an NFC North contender a few weeks ago, and before considering all of the angles, I was also unsure why the Minnesota Vikings are touted as such a Wild Card loser. The Norsemen check most of the boxes for a strong WC-bid contender, having fought the Pack for the division title, having won at Jerry World and nearly at Arrowhead Stadium, and featuring a pass rush that punished Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers in late fall.
Kirk Cousins has his believers and detractors, but looking at a passer through either lens can distort the handicapping eye. Minnesota’s QB is not “bad,” “flaky,” or a “choker” no matter how many Negative Nancy types chirp about it for attention. If there’s a solid reason to ignore the Vikings as a potential underdog moneyline bet, it’s that Cousins’ club backed-into the postseason with 2 straight losses after facing an inside track to the NFC North crown. That’s a team-wide deal, not just a quarterback deal. The starting signal-caller didn’t even play against the Bears in Wk 17.
But even in the real world where all NFL QBs’ talents are respected, it’s possible to imagine Drew Brees simply out-gunning Cousins in a wild (excuse the pun) game. When a pair of offenses are clicking the better QB usually prevails in the end, like Doug Flutie over Vinny Testeverde back in the day. Sunday’s odds don’t necessarily reflect weakness in the Vikings so much as the multiple ways New Orleans can win. If it’s a tight, defensive battle, New Orleans can win. If it’s a high-scoring track meet in the indoor setting? The Saints’ well-oiled offense will probably pull ahead by 2 or 3 touchdowns, beating the (-8) point spread easily.
Meanwhile, the Vikings must work to limit the Saints’ point-scoring somehow, and that begins with the edge rush. Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter has been a sack machine in 2019, though he’ll have the disadvantage of working against New Orleans OT Ryan Ramczyk without a friendly crowd to help.
The Over/Under total opened at (46) which was clearly too low. New Orleans’ defense is a strong unit which has intercepted 13 passes and held opponents to less than 6 yards per pass attempt. Moreover, Sunday’s host defense got the team through a section of the season in which the offense was missing Brees. But the Saints aren’t designed to shut-out competent clubs, just to occasionally gum-up the works and force a turnover from a QB. If the Vikings are held to less than 22 points and Cousins fumbles or is intercepted once, New Orleans probably wins, but the total would still most-likely go over 46. If each QB plays a good game then there’s no way it goes under 50 points. Gamblers have noticed, pushing the Las Vegas total up to (49.5) points since betting began.
The Over/Under market was a better wager on Monday. ATS is still a good idea now.
New Orleans has at least a 60% chance to win by 10 points or more. That’s no negative assessment of Kirk Cousins. He’s a playoff veteran who’ll lead scoring drives, and maybe even take care of the ball. But in the Superdome with a lesser supporting cast on a losing streak, it won’t be enough to overcome Hurricane Drew.
Cousins has rarely been turnover-free in any of the Vikings’ wins over quality opponents in ’19, and his OL was unable to blow the Packers off the ball during a key home game in Week 16. Dalvin Cook’s return will help the Minnesota backfield but he can’t line up and block for himself there, let alone in the roaring din of enemy noise. As Joel Buchsbaum used to say, imagine what happens if each team plays its game.
Take New Orleans giving (-8) ATS on Sunday.