Brian Allee-Walsh

The Saints keep us guessing on Drew Brees. Be prepared to spend wisely on bets.

Will he or won’t he? An answer to that burning question is forthcoming soon, though it seems to matter little who starts at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (noon, Fox).

Whether Drew Brees makes his return after missing the past five games with a bum right thumb on his throwing hand, or hot-handed backup Teddy Bridgewater who has guided the Black and Gold to five straight wins in Brees’ absence remains under center, the NFC South-leading Saints (6-1) are prohibitive favorites either way.

The line opened at Saints minus-7 1/2 and has jumped to minus-10, -10 1/2 in many sports betting houses. I was told by one prominent oddsmaker that Brees’ presence under center would cause a 4-point jump in the Saints favor.

Saints coach Sean Payton is expected to keep us guessing until Sunday morning when teams officially have to announce their active roster one hour before kickoff. Look for word to leak out earlier during the pre-game NFL cable shows.

I suspect Brees will play against the Cardinals (3-3-1) if he doesn’t suffer a setback or experience discomfort in practice or during pre-game warmups. He’s champing at the bit to play and Payton apparently sees no reason not to green light No. 9 if everything comes up positive.

“That’s the plan,” Brees said.

“I think a lot of people from the outside say, ‘Well, let’s rest him one more week, then we have a bye week,’” Payton said. “Look, if he’s ready to play, he’s ready to play. The game’s an important game just as the first game after the bye is important (against Atlanta, Nov. 10, Superdome). So our approach will be just that.”

Again, it hasn’t seemed to matter who’s been under center since Brees went to the sideline during the first quarter of a Week 2 road loss against the Los Angeles Rams. The team has rallied around Bridgewater and played complementary football in all three phases, especially on defense and special teams.

The Saints rank seventh league-wide in yards allowed per game (327.9) and 14th in scoring defense (21.0 ppg).

“We take a backseat to nobody,’” said Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who missed the first three games while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in January. “We love our Hall of Fame quarterback, we love Teddy, we love Michael (Thomas), we love Alvin (Kamara) and all those guys. But at the end of the day, we’re always gonna put it on our shoulders.”

If considering placing a wager on Sunday’s game, check on Brees’ status pre-game and keep in mind the Saints recent record against the spread.

They have covered the spread in 16 consecutive October games dating to Week 5 of the 2016 season following a 39-17 loss at Philadelphia. In their past 21 games played in October, they are 20-1 both straight up and against the spread.

Conversely, the Cardinals are 7-2-1 against the spread and 4-6 straight up in their last 10 road games.

Good luck and spend wisely.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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