The NFL is Back! Saints-Packers Preview

THE NFL IS BACK!

THE LOCKOUT IS A LONG-AGO AND FAR-AWAY (BAD) MEMORY AND SO NOW ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? ...

THE NFL KICKOFF GAME BRINGS US SAINTS-PACKERS SHOWDOWN AT LAMBEAU FIELD AS WE EXAMINE HOW RECENT SUPER BOWL CHAMPS HAVE PERFORMED SPREADWISE "THE YEAR AFTER"

By Jim Hurley:

Let's face it, folks: It only seems like the National Football League has been away forever-and-a-day but the reality of the situation is that this 2011 NFL season is beginning "on time" with Thursday's now-annual NFL Kickoff Game as this one pits the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints against the 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and - right off the bat - that got us to wondering how these Kickoff Games have gone since its inception involving SB-winning teams back in 2004. Here's the details and note all home teams are in CAPS:
 

YEAR

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

RESULT

2010

NEW ORLEANS

- 5

Minnesota

NEW ORLEANS 14-9

2009

PITTSBURGH

- 6.5

Tennessee

PITTSBURGH 13-10

2008

NY GIANTS

- 4.5

Washington

NY GIANTS 16-7

2007

INDIANAPOLIS

- 5.5

New Orleans

INDIANAPOLIS 41-10

2006

PITTSBURGH

- 1

Miami

PITTSBURGH 28-17

2005

NEW ENGLAND

- 7.5

Oakland

NEW ENGLAND 30-20

2004

NEW ENGLAND

- 3

Indianapolis

NEW ENGLAND 27-24

Okay, so you see what we're getting' at here, right?

The defending Super Bowl champions have won all seven Kickoff Games in SU (straight-up) fashion and take note that Home Betting Favorites are a collective 4-1-2 ATS (against the spread) ever since the NFL starting acknowledging the prior year Super Bowl champs with the first prime-time game the next season. In short, the only defending Super Bowl champ not to cover were the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers who managed a 13-10 win against 6 ½-point pup Tennessee and so you can go into Thursday's Game at historic Lambeau Field either believing that NFL Underdogs are "due" to win one of these NFL Kickoff Games outright or it may follow recent scripts and that's the Packers will win and either cover or - at worst - "push" here.

Note that the Packers - who opened as a 5-point choice in this first of the NFL Week One games - are down to a 4-point choice at press time and you might be interested in knowing that last year Green Bay finished up 8-4 versus the vig when laying single-digit prices. Meanwhile, the Saints are appearing on one of these relatively-recent NFL Kickoff Games for a third time in five years and notice N'Orleans didn't cover either of its first two appearances here including last year's win-but-push tilt against the Minnesota Vikings.

We'll touch on how recent NFL Super Bowl champions fared spreadwise for the entire ensuing season in just a moment - okay, so we'll go back to that same 2004 season - but first get this important message:

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Now, let's show you how defending NFL Super Bowl champions have fared spreadwise since 2004:

YEAR SUPER CHAMP ATS PCT
2010 New Orleans Saints 6-10-1 .375
2009 Pittsburgh Steelers 5-10-1 .333
2008 New York Giants 12-5-0 .706
2007 Indianapolis Colts 9-8-0 .529
2006 Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8-0 .500
2005 New England Patriots 9-9-0 .500
2004 New England Patriots 13-5-1 .722

It's worth noting that defending Super Bowl champions are a composite 62-55-3 - that's a solid if unspectacular .530 winning rate that does include all post-season games - since the start of the 2004 season but these last two champs have really struggled versus Mr. Vig while going a collective 11-20-2 against the odds and now everyone's wondering whether the GB Packers will take a major step backwards spreadwise in 2011 ... do stay tuned.

NFL KICKOFF GAME PREVIEW

On Thursday, it's ...NEW ORLEANS at GREEN BAY - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Maybe the folks in Green Bay - a/k/a Titletown, USA - believe it's their "divine right" to hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

After all, the Super Bowl trophy was named after the iconic Packers head coach who guided his teams to wins in Super Bowl I and II back in the late 1960s and there are plenty of folks who firmly believe that this year's club will repeat following last year's magical ride that included playoff wins in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago to go along with the Super Bowl win against Pittsburgh.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, the visiting N'Orleans Saints think that they'll be able to turn back the clock to the '09 campaign when this favorite son of the Bayou won it all with a thrilling SB crown over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Saints were one-and-done in last year's post-season word 'round New Orleans is that this club is "focused" on making amends but the first order of business here is handling Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers who threw for 1,094 yards and 4 TDs in GB's splendid post-season run last winter. Rodgers will have his fair share of targets here but keep a special eye on veteran WR Greg Jennings who snagged 76 balls for 16.6 yards-per-catch to go along with 12 TDs. Count on the Saints' secondary to get physical with Jennings who likes to back up his trash talking.

Meanwhile, Saints QB Drew Brees (4,620 yards passing with 33 TDs and 22 INTs a year ago) must make a point of cutting back on his picks but the real key here might be balance: New Orleans would love to get loads of effective rushes (and positive rushing yards) from rookie RB Mark Ingram whose first-found selection basically bumped Reggie Bush out the door but let's see if the former Heisman Trophy winner gets 20-to-25 carries here and 100 yards - if not, the Saints likely won't be marching to any winner's circle.

Two quick stats here: New Orleans ranked just 20th in the 32-team NFL last year in red-zone TD percentage (50.8) and Sean Payton's club simply cannot afford to kick 3's here and not get at least 27 points (note the totals price on this game is 47 ½ points at press time).

Meanwhile, Green Bay last year finished second in the league in INTs (with 24) and tied for second in sacks (with 47) and it says here that the Packers must get a minimum three sacks and at least two INTs here or else the always-dangerous Brees could make a mess of things with the Pack defense.

Spread Notes - Green Bay's fresh off a 13-7 ATS season that included four pointspread wins in four post-season games including that 31-25 triumph over 2 ½-point pup Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. The Packers also have covered their last four consecutive season-opening games plus G-Bay's an electric 17-10-1 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of the 2009 season. On the flip side, New Orleans is a nifty 4-1-1 spreadwise in its last half-dozen season openers and the Saints are 15-11-1 as underdogs in the Payton Era that began back in 2006. Note that this NFC South crew did fail to cover 6-of-9 away games last year including that season-ending 41-36 loss at 10-point dog Seattle in an NFC Wild Card Game.

NOTE: Get College Football News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

20
Aug

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