This week’s dangerous opponent for the New Orleans Saints will be about as well-rested as possible in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins are coming off a bye week in advance of a Monday night matchup. Kickoff will be slightly more than two weeks after they coasted past Green Bay 31-17. And, THAT game wasn’t particularly grueling because the Packers were in a letdown spot off an exhausting divisional overtime tie vs. Minnesota.
You can tell in early pricing that the market is showing Washington (a team that lost a home game to Indianapolis) a lot of respect. New Orleans opened as a 7-point home favorite. Early betting on the road underdog has dropped the line to Saints -6.5 in advance of weekend action.
Though that’s only a half point … it’s a BIG half point because it moved off the key number of 7. That’s the second most common victory margin in football (behind 3). It takes a lot of money to move a game off a key number … and that money has to be respected for the line to “stick” after the move. Important to note that there wasn’t a feeding frenzy on the Saints at -6.5. If anything, there are indications the line could fall further. Some stores have tested Saints -6.
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Normally, when the Saints are at home, the general public wants to bet them. Nothing from the last two weeks should change that tendency. New Orleans won a big divisional game at Atlanta, then dominated the New York Giants in a high-profile TV window last Sunday. Saints won 33-18, with a yardage edge of 398-299 on 6.1 to 4.8 yards-per-play. Most importantly, running back Alvin Kamara had his best outing in a long time, with 134 yards on the ground and three touchdowns (both career highs).
The 3-1 Saints are sizzling … but sharps want to bet a likely non-playoff team that couldn’t even win at home against Indianapolis! What gives?
Here are the likely factors driving interest from pro bettors …
▪ Sharps often reward at least one point in their analysis for a team coming off a bye.
▪ Sharps may be penalizing New Orleans for fatigue after winning two straight road games. It’s not like New Orleans is in a bounce-back spot off a bad game. The Saints could be running out of gas after two big road efforts. Many sharps perceive value in a “fresh dog vs. tired favorite” scenario.
▪ Sharps respect defense, and Washington currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in total defense and yards-allowed-per-play. Just 278 yards allowed per game and 4.7 yards per snap. Handicappers will have to determine how much of that perceived skill is an illusion created by strength of schedule. Washington shut down Sam Bradford (big deal!), and a hobbled Aaron Rodgers. But, even in the loss to Indianapolis, Washington held Andrew Luck to a mediocre passing line of 21-31-2-177. In a high scoring season, what Washington has accomplished on that side of the ball will get noticed.
▪ Sharps know that Washington quarterback Alex Smith can move the ball on vulnerable defenses. New Orleans has allowed 14 touchdowns on drives of 65 yards or more through four games. And, that’s with the perk of facing Tyrod Taylor of Cleveland and the New York Giants’ struggling offense. Tampa Bay and Atlanta totaled 10 long TD drives by themselves.
The point of this article isn’t to tell you to bet on Washington. It’s to explain why sharps bet on Washington so aggressively at +7. They are seeing a scenario where the fresher team with the superior defense has a chance to move the ball consistently and stay competitive. And they believe that will cause the final result to land on Washington’s side of 7 more than 52.4% the time (which is the break-even at 11/10 vigorish).
Even though New Orleans is seen as the much more serious Super Bowl threat, this is not a home blowout scenario unless Washington’s early season defense is smoke and mirrors. If the hosts do win big, it will be a big strike against Washington, and a great way to send the Saints into their own bye the following week.
▪ After its bye on October 14, New Orleans will have to face Baltimore, Minnesota, the LA Rams, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia in succession. Brutal! And, it won’t get much easier after that if Atlanta, Dallas, Carolina (twice) and Pittsburgh stay in the playoff hunt. Be sure to monitor the Saints’ defense for cumulative fatigue beginning in mid-November.
▪ Current odds for the Saints to win the Super Bowl range from 10/1 to 12/1 globally. For the three other NFC South teams: Carolina is in the range of 25/1 to 33/1, Atlanta is most commonly 40/1, and Tampa Bay centers around 80/1.
▪ Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are the only NFL starting quarterbacks who haven’t thrown at least one interception yet this season. Mahomes has an amazing TD/INT ratio of 14/0. Brees is 8/0. The only other QB besides Mahomes to have a better TD/INT differential than Brees is Jared Goff at 11/2.