Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 7:00 PM
When Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl, it was assumed that the team from the Big Easy would be an annual championship contender from that point forward. Instead, the Saints have been consistently overrated for two big reasons:
*Their defense has been lousy
*The league has been gradually catching up with their high octane offense
Last year the Saints missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record against one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. It was tough to really count them out because Brees is so productive. But, they weren’t a good team…and it would have been more obvious if they had played a representative schedule.
Heading into the 2015 campaign, you get the sense that it’s now or never for turning the ship back around. Patience has run thin. Sunday’s nationally televised dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans might tell us a lot about whether or not the Saints can make it back to the playoffs. Let’s run the numbers…
2014 RECORDS (turnovers, strength of schedule)
Houston: 9-7 (+12 turnovers, #32 rated schedule)
New Orleans: 7-9 (-13 turnovers, #27 rated schedule)
You can see that New Orleans had a losing record and a pathetic turnover differential despite playing an easy schedule. Houston actually played the EASIEST schedule according to Jeff Sagarin’s numbers at USA Today. They do deserve credit for getting the best of the risk/reward ratio. But, if you go 9-7 against a cupcake schedule…you’re probably just a 7-9 team against something normal. Neither team should be satisfied with last season.
Houston: 5.2 on offense, 5.2 on defense
New Orleans: 6.0 on offense, 6.0 on defense
Funny how we have identical yardage differentials, but completely opposite teams. Houston had a poor offense and a strong defense. New Orleans had a great offense but a pathetic defense. In terms of today’s theme regarding the Saints…good tests here. Brees will be facing a quality defense. That New Orleans stop unit better be able to slow down the Texans.
2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Houston: 39% on offense, 34% on defense
New Orleans: 48% on offense, 46% on defense
Same story here…except with more extremes. Houston’s defense was fantastic on third downs, as was the veteran Brees on offense for NO. But…that Saints defense could never get off the field. Do you know how passive a defense has to be to allow that many third down conversions while not forcing many turnovers?!
2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
New Orleans 8.5
Well…the market has it all coming out in the wash…but was apparently oblivious to the strength of schedule dynamics. Houston’s hoping to get better with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. He’s certainly unproven in terms of accomplishing what the Texans are hoping for. New Orleans will either rally back to save the day…or will slam the door shut on what turned out to be a disappointing post-Super Bowl demise.
PRIOR PRESEASON RESULTS
Houston (-3) beat San Francisco 23-10, winning yardage 400-199
Houston (-2) lost to Denver 14-10, getting outgained 383-282
New Orleans (+3) lost at Baltimore 30-27, winning yardage 366-360
New Orleans (-2) lost to New England 26-24, winning yardage 428-364
It’s hard to know what the win over SF means, because that team could be in real trouble this year. The loss to Denver was worse in the stats than the final score made it sound. For the Saints….a continuation from last season. Those are strong offensive numbers for August…but the defense continues to be very soft.
Las Vegas Line: New Orleans by 3.5, total of 44
The market is giving the Saints a lot of respect because anything over a field goal in a Preseason game represents superiority. That probably means insiders expect New Orleans to prioritize the game much more emphatically. That Over/Under of 44 kind of splits the difference between the 57 and 50 posted in the prior Saints games…and the 33 and 24 posted in the Texans games. Figure out which team is going to impose its will on the matchup…and that picks the total for you.
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We’ll take some time off from the NFL now because there’s limited interest in the lame duck games in Week Four. But, we’ll still be busy here in the NOTEBOOK. A quick pennant race look-in Monday is followed by three big TV previews in COLLEGE FOOTBALL!
Monday: MLB Series Preview…San Francisco at the Los Angeles Dodgers
Tuesday: College Football Notes (the season begins Thursday!)
Wednesday-Thursday: College Football TV Preview…North Carolina at South Carolina
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview…#3 Alabama vs. #20 Wisconsin
Sunday-Monday: College Football TV Preview…#1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
The Dollars of August continue to pile high as the month winds to a close. Be sure you continue to GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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