After the Los Angeles Rams fell to the Chicago Bears 15-6 this past Sunday night, the New Orleans Saints regained their spot atop the futures board in odds to win the NFC and the Super Bowl.
Though prices will vary across the globe, New Orleans currently centers around +150 to +175 to win the NFC, and in the range of +330 to +350 to win the Super Bowl. (For those new to betting, a wager of $100 on the Saints to win the NFC right now would earn a profit in the range of $150 to $175 were New Orleans to capture the conference. A bet of $100 on the Saints to lift the Lombardi trophy would profit in the range of $330 to $350 with a Super Bowl victory over the AFC entrant.)
The Rams are around +175 to win the NFC, and +400 to win the Super Bowl.
Both teams enter the weekend with 11-2 records. New Orleans owns the tie-breaker because of a head-to-head victory. Betting markets expect the Saints to maintain that advantage. Both teams will be favored to win the rest of their games. Though, the Saints do have the slightly tougher slate.
▪ New Orleans will likely close around 6-7 point favorites this Monday night at Carolina. After that, home games vs. Pittsburgh and Carolina … with projected point spreads in the range of -7 vs. the Steelers and more than -10 in the Panthers rematch.
▪ Los Angeles will close higher than a TD favorite at home Sunday vs. Philadelphia. After that, it looks like double-digit spreads at Arizona and vs. San Francisco.
Both teams have two home games and one road game left. Los Angeles will be the larger “composite” favorite if you add up the spreads. But, a win is a win regardless of margin in the battle for top seed.
Saints fans were concerned about a possible loss at Tampa Bay LAST week. New Orleans trailed 14-3 at halftime before rallying to both win and cover as 9-point favorites. Let’s take a quick peak at key stats.
New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 14
Total Yardage: New Orleans 298, Tampa Bay 279
Yards-per-play: New Orleans 4.8 Tampa Bay 4.3
Third Down Rate: New Orleans 50%, Tampa Bay 43%
Passing Stats: New Orleans 24-31-1-198, Tampa Bay 18-38-1-174
Remaining causes for concern: The Saints couldn’t reach 300 total yards or 5.0 yards-per-play against a bad defense with extra rest in both bounce-back and revenge scenarios. For the second straight week, New Orleans dug a first half hole (losses of 13-0 and 14-3). As in Dallas, passing yardage was largely of the “dink and dunk” variety. It will be tough to get scoreboard distance in the playoffs with that approach.
This is not the “blow and go” version of the Saints that was crushing opponents a few weeks ago. Clinching home field advantage through the NFC brackets will provide an opportunity for that thrill ride to return in January.
Should you consider a bet on the Saints Monday night at Carolina? Backing favorites playing their third straight road game can be very dicey in this league, no matter how talented the roster. Sharps (professional wagerers) bet the underdog at the opener of +7 … and would likely do so again if the key number comes back into play before kickoff.
Carolina would be getting even more sharp support if it weren’t in a recent slump. The Panthers have lost five straight games after a 6-2 start. But, they aren’t playing like a team that’s given up hope. The last four losses were by 1, 3, 7, and 6 points.
Monday night’s game is a must-win for Carolina in a crowded wildcard picture. If you assume Seattle will maintain its edge for the first NFC wildcard, four teams are at either 6-6-1 (Minnesota) or 6-7 (Carolina, Philadelphia, Washington) entering the week. Possibly rejuvenated Green Bay is lingering at 5-7-1.
▪ Drew Brees is the current favorite offshore to win the league’s MVP award. It’s a two-way race between Brees and Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City. Brees is priced in the range of -125 to -150 (meaning you’d have to risk $125 to $150 to earn a $100 profit). Mahomes is just behind at +125 to +150. Few others are getting similar respect. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley split the vote for the Rams. None of the big stars in the AFC is sustaining consistent excellence.
▪ New Orleans is just 3 of 7 scoring touchdowns in red zone visits the past two games. That dropped them to 69%, fifth in the league entering the new week. The Los Angeles Rams rank a surprising #19 at 57%. Other likely NFC playoff teams: Seattle and Chicago are tied at the #11 position at 64%, Dallas ranks #30 at 46%. If the Saints can reverse that recent downturn, the ability to turn opportunities into touchdowns is a different form of tie-breaker that could put them over the top in the postseason.