Though the pain of the last Sunday’s playoff loss by the New Orleans Saints will never go away completely for avid fans, it’s important for sports bettors to take stock of the 2018 season. For better or worse, what you learned from this past campaign can help you make smart bets in 2019 and beyond.
Here’s a quick recap, with playoff performances in parenthesis …
New Orleans by the Numbers
Straight up Record: 13-3 (1-1 in playoffs)
Record vs. Point Spread: 10-6 (0-2 in playoffs)
Over/Unders: 7 Overs, 9 Unders (two playoff Unders)
Seeing that 13-3 straight up record, you might be thinking that betting the Saints on the money line just to win straight up would have been a big money maker. It wasn’t. New Orleans was a big favorite in all three of its losses. Point spreads of -10 vs. Tampa Bay, and around -8 both at Dallas at a home vs. Carolina in the season finale had corresponding money lines around -450, -350, and -350. That’s the same as about 11-12 losses. So, just a slight regular season profit overall.
Betting New Orleans against the spread during the regular season made fractionally fewer than four betting units once you factor in the vigorish (losing bets pay an extra 10% at sports books … so a 10-6 record is actually 10 wins and 6.6 losses). Believe it or not, that tied for the second-best ATS record amongst the 32 NFL teams! Chicago led the way at 12-4. Cleveland tied New Orleans at 10-6, and covered a heads up meeting with the Saints in the Superdome.
Markets tended to underestimate the New Orleans defense because of some shootouts in the first half of the season. That led to Over/Under targets that were often too high for games to reach. Betting Overs in every game counting the playoffs would have yielded a poor 7 and 12.1 record counting the vig (7-9 in the regular season, 0-2 in the playoffs).
There were some very clear “in-season” tendencies that saw the Saints stomping the league before peaking in November. New Orleans was 9-2 against the spread its first 11 games, before limping home 1-6 ATS counting the playoffs. Overs were 5-4 in the first nine games, but seven of the final nine games stayed Under.
Many observers believed quarterback Drew Brees had lost some zip with his passes down the stretch and in January. Offensive stats and those side and total tendencies are consistent with that assessment.
Looking ahead, handicapping the Saints in 2019 could well key on the 40-year-old quarterback (who just celebrated that milestone birthday January 15.) The impact of aging does eventually show up on veteran stars. You saw that with Peyton Manning a few years ago. Time will tell if Brees’ late season setbacks were due to an unreported injury, or a natural on-field decline for that age range. New Orleans will remain a championship contender with Brees at 100%.
Note that the Saints are currently third favorite to win the 2020 Super Bowl. Futures prices (distant futures prices!) center around 8/1 for the Saints. Both the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs (6/1 and 7/1) have slightly brighter prospects being led by productive young quarterbacks who still have room to improve.
▪ In the 2019 Super Bowl set for Atlanta a week from Sunday, the New England Patriots have been sitting in the range of -2 to -2.5 over the Los Angeles Rams after opening near pick-em (depending on the store). It’s assumed that the public will prefer the favored Pats, given perceived edges at the head coaching and quarterback positions. Obviously, the Rams needed a very lucky break to reach the big game. New England owned the point of attack by outgaining Kansas City 524-290. Though, don’t forget that New England was a short Super Bowl favorite over a young quarterback in a dome a year ago and was upset by Philadelphia. VSiN will talk more about Patriots/Rams in our Saturday report next week.
▪ This Saturday, we’ll update college basketball market developments for No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 22 Mississippi State. Could the SEC become a Dance darling in March? Tennessee just jumped Duke to sit atop the national rankings. Hard-charging Kentucky rose to #8. Auburn fell to #16 after losing a home game to Kentucky. LSU snuck into the final rankings slot at #25. VSiN looks forward to covering the markets for you during what could be a VERY exciting stretch.