New Orleans Saints

Why are oddsmakers having so much trouble with the Saints this season?

Betting markets continue to chase the New Orleans Saints, who have covered nine straight games after closing as 12-point favorites in a 31-17 win over Atlanta Thanksgiving night.

New Orleans is 9-2 against the spread for the season (bouncing back from an 0-2 start), a very profitable 82% cover rate.

Another Thursday game this week. The Saints visit the Dallas Cowboys in what will surely be one of the highest rated prime time attractions of the 2018 season. New Orleans opened as a 7-point favorite, with some sports books charging 12/10 vigorish to take the Saints rather than the traditional 11/10.

Why are oddsmakers having so much trouble pricing the Saints this season? The main reason involves the rare offensive combination of explosiveness and efficiency. Many high yardage/high scoring offenses put points on the board, but commit too many turnovers. Many efficient teams grind so much clock that it’s hard to win blowouts. The Saints are shining at everything.

New Orleans currently leads the NFL in points scored per game at 37.2 (a half-point ahead of Kansas City, and about two points ahead of the Los Angeles Rams). Here’s how they rank in various “volume” and “efficiency” stats …

VOLUME: The Saints enter Week 13 ranked No. 5 in yards-per-game, #6 in passing yards-per-game, #6 in rushing yards-per-game.

Those are strong rankings. And, balance is very important because it keeps opposing defenses from focusing on one element. But, by themselves, those rankings aren’t enough to dominate the NFL.

EFFICIENCY: No. 1 in fewest giveaways, No. 1 in fewest offensive penalties, No. 6 in third down conversion rate, No. 1 in fourth down conversion rate, No. 3 in red zone touchdown percentage.

Drew Brees commands a relentless machine that marches the ball downfield easily while rarely making mistakes. Once in the red zone, it maximizes the power of its yardage by hitting paydirt. That means blowouts against vulnerable defenses, and the ability to find a workable plan against quality opponents.

Betting markets aren’t used to dealing with THIS animal. Worth nothing that the markets often underpriced the New England Patriots in past seasons when they approached this rarefied profile.

Does a line of Saints -7 (or more) on the road finally capture reality? Remember that home field advantage is worth about three points in the NFL. That number suggests New Orleans would be -10 on a neutral field, or -13 in the Superdome. Against a likely division winner!

Enjoy the game. Best of luck with your bets!

Other Notes

Futures markets currently show New Orleans as favorites to win the NFC with global prices centering around +150 (a $10 bet wins $15, or anything in that ratio). The Rams are just behind at +175. In odds to win the Super Bowl, the Saints lead the way at +300 (a $10 bet wins $30, or anything in that ratio). The Rams are +350, Kansas City +500, New England +600, and Pittsburgh +1000.

We’ve been covering the local college teams for you all season from a market and analytics perspective. All three finished have finished their regular seasons. Mississippi State (-11) blew out Ole Miss 35-3 in Oxford Thanksgiving night, winning total yardage 420-189, yards-per-play 6.1 to 3.5, third downs 46% to 0% (Ole Miss was 0 for 11!), and turnovers 3-0. Mississippi State finished 8-4, and will find out which postseason bowl it will attend this coming Sunday. Ole Miss was ineligible for the postseason because of sanctions, then failed to earn bowl eligibility anyway with a 5-7 final record.

Mississippi State also finished 8-4 against the spread with last Thursday’s cover. Clearly an underrated team by the markets. Looks like the defense was also underrated. Over/Unders went 2-9 to the Under this season (one game lacked a posted total). There are still concerns about the offense whenever it runs into a quality defense. Keep that in mind when bowl matchups are announced.

Ole Miss finished an awful 3-9 against the spread, one of the most overrated teams in the country. That after a 2-0 ATS start with early win/covers against Texas Tech and Southern Illinois. The Rebels didn’t cover a single SEC game, posting an 0-8 mark against market expectations (1-7 straight up thanks to a win over Arkansas).

This past Saturday, Southern Miss (-13) won easily at UTEP 39-7. A dominating defense led the way. USM won total yardage 378-187 on 5.5 to 3.5 yards-per-play while winning the turnover battle 4-0. The Golden Eagles finished the season 6-5 to earn a bowl bid (one game was dropped from the schedule due to weather). They also finished 6-5 against the spread.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at VSiN.com/newsletter
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