Betting markets are frantically trying to adjust to the recent demise of the New Orleans Saints’ passing game. A dramatic drop-off in production the past month has impacted point spreads, Over/Unders, and even futures prices for the MVP award.
Let’s run the numbers. You likely know that Drew Brees started the season on a record-setting pace. He passed for more than 340 yards in five of nine games. HUGE numbers by any standard. Over the past month, consistently way below that in these passing lines …
23-35-1-203 at Carolina
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24-31-1-201 at Tampa Bay
18-28-1-127 at Dallas
15-22-1-171 vs. Atlanta
As we’ve mentioned before, the Saints’ passing offense has been satisfied to dink and dunk. Brees is a bit more sack prone than he had been too. He has been taken down six times in the past four games, after going four straight weeks without suffering a sack.
Point Spread Impact: The Saints have failed to cover two of their last three games because they’re no longer running up high scoreboard totals on a consistent basis. New Orleans scored a combined total of 50 points vs. Carolina, Tampa Bay and Dallas (12, 28, 10), after scoring at least 45 in each of its prior three outings (45 vs. the LA Rams, 51 vs. Cincinnati, and 48 vs. Philadelphia).
Over/Under Impact: The Saints have now played FIVE straight unders because cautious offense has been paired with what has become a strong defense. In those four games we highlighted to show Brees’ passing decline, totals stayed under by 13.5, 28.5, 12, and 29.5 points higher. That’s about 12 expected touchdowns that didn’t happen!
MVP Futures: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs is once again the betting favorite because he’s still posting big numbers and making highlight reels. Brees no longer even ranks in the top 15 in passing yardage per game.
It’s worth noting, though, that New Orleans futures prices to win the NFC and Super Bowl haven’t budged much. The Saints are still in the driver’s seat because they’re on pace to earn home-field advantage through the NFC brackets and go up as a short favorite in the Super Bowl over the most-likely opponents. The team didn’t “get worse” because of Brees’ numbers. It’s just winning differently.
A huge home game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is on tap Sunday (CBS, 3:25 p.m.). The opening line of New Orleans -6.5 was initially bet down to -6 or -5.5 globally. Pro bettors wanted a potent underdog in a must-win situation against a favored host that stopped getting scoreboard distance. The general public may hit the Saints over the weekend. New Orleans does have a strong home field. And, Pittsburgh is in an obvious letdown spot after an emotional and dramatic home win over the New England Patriots last week.
Pittsburgh’s defense has also been racking up a lot of air miles. This is the Steelers’ fourth road game in six weeks, with trips to Jacksonville, Denver, and Oakland on the recent itinerary. A promising scenario for Brees to return to his prior production against a weary visiting defense.
▪ Last week we noted that New Orleans had cooled off in the red zone too. That preceded a disappointing 1 of 3 effort in Carolina (just one touchdown in three trips). The Saints are now 4 of 10, exactly 40% the last three weeks. Surviving the NFC playoffs will be a battle if that doesn’t improve.
▪ Because so many teams have changed form in recent weeks, VSiN put together a quick study to look at “drive point” data over the past month only. If you’ve been with us all season, you know that drive points are those scored and allowed on drives of 60 yards or more. They don’t count special teams’ or defensive touchdowns, or points scored on drives of less than 60 yards. We want to know which offenses can drive the field for points, and which defenses can prevent it.
Over the last month, New Orleans ranks a disappointing No. 29 on offense, but a stellar #4 on defense. This week’s opponent, Pittsburgh ranks #11 on offense, #27 on defense. You can see what we mean about Brees having a chance to rebound against a vulnerable defense.