Chargers - Saints Sunday Night Preview

SAINTS AT 0-4 STILL LAYING MORE THAN A FG TO 3-1 CHARGERS ON SUNDAY NIGHT

This is something you don't see very often...a team that's winless through four games laying more than a field goal to a team that's off to a winning start and positioned well in the playoff race. What's going on? How could a winless team be getting that much respect from the markets?

A few things are in play here:

  • New Orleans and Drew Brees typically get respect in the line, particularly when playing indoors on their fast track at home.

  • New Orleans didn't embarrass themselves in a tight loss at Green Bay last week. They're seen as a team that's about to break through and get that initial victory of the season.

  • Brees is in position to set a statistical record this year that's been getting some media run. People love betting on guys who are striving for statistical achievements.

  • Nobody trusts Norv Turner!

All that being said, there are still reason to question this number based on what's happened so far in the 2012 season. Let's go through some of our indicator stats to see if we can discover the right way to play Sunday Night's nationally televised interconference affair.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8:20 p.m. on NBC)
Las Vegas Spread: New Orleans by 3.5, total of 52.5

The market is saying New Orleans is the better team, regardless of what the won-lost records suggest. Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL. If a line sticks above that, then the favorite is the superior side. It's important to note that the opener was right on the key number of three, and Wise Guys hit the Saints before the public even become involved. Obviously a high scoring shootout is expected with an Over/Under in the 50's.

WON-LOST RECORDS
San Diego: 3-1 (at Oakland, vs. Tennessee, vs. Atlanta, at Kansas City)
New Orleans: 0-4 (vs. Washington, at Carolina, vs. Kansas City, at Green Bay)

Let's pay attention to the schedules here. San Diego has had it easy...with wins over two teams who may turn out to be horrible this year (Oakland and Tennessee), and another that certainly has horrible in them in any given week (Kansas City). The only game SD played against a real playoff type team was at home against Atlanta, and they were badly outclassed. It's worth noting though that New Orleans is 0-4 against a schedule that may only have one playoff caliber opponent on it. And, they were humiliated at the point of attack at home by the Kansas City team that San Diego beat last week. It's been a truly BAD start to the season for the Saints...not some sort of "best 0-4 team ever" start featuring a lot of hard-luck losses to top notch contenders. They had one of those last week, but only one. This version of the Saints has played like a 6-10 or 7-9 type team.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
San Diego: +3
New Orleans: even

The Chargers can have troubles in this area when they play good teams. Quarterback Philip Rivers tends to force things at the worst possible time. A soft early schedule has helped them avoid this concern. New Orleans is dead even...which is actually a bad sign with an 0-4 start. It means the won-lost record isn't polluted by bad turnover luck. Another sign that New Orleans really has dropped off this year. The Saints are 0-4 against a manageable schedule while not suffering bad turnover luck.

OFFENSIVE STATS
San Diego: 311.8 yards-per-game on 5.1 yards-per-play
New Orleans: 401.1 yards-per-game on 5.8 yards-per-play

This is where the Saints are still the Saints. Brees is moving the ball and getting points on the board. He's terrific, and nothing about that's changed. The Saints aren't losing because Drew Brees got old, or because the league figured out how to stop him. What interests us about this category is how bad San Diego looks. This is supposed to be an explosive offense. Yet, we're seeing low 300's and only 5.1 YPP in a year where passing attacks have been able to get things done. AND, that's come against a weak schedule. This is a red flag warning in terms of San Diego's future as a playoff contender. They don't currently have a playoff caliber offense, which is big news considering the Turner/Rivers era. If you're laying the points with the Saints, this is the category you're pointing to as the main reason.

DEFENSIVE STATS
San Diego: 317.5 yards-per-game on 5.2 yards-per-play
New Orleans: 463.2 yards-per-game on 6.4 yards-per-play

Ugh...do you fans of offense still like the Saints as a value play? Those are HORRIBLE numbers against a schedule that's included a rookie quarterback, a second-year quarterback, and the inconsistent offense of the Chiefs. The franchise was obviously greatly affected by what happened in the offseason. They're playing as if they went on strike! This is what we mean about New Orleans playing 6-10 caliber football. Heck, that's expansion caliber defense.

LAST WEEK'S BOXES

SAN DIEGO 37, KANSAS CITY 20
Total Yardage: San Diego 293, Kansas City 353
Rushing Yards: San Diego 104, Kansas City 119
Passing Stats: San Diego 18-23-1-189, Kansas City 24-42-3-234
Turnovers: San Diego 1, Kansas City 6
Third Downs: San Diego 25%, Kansas City 40%
Vegas Line: San Diego by 2, total of 44

The key to note here is that San Diego enjoyed a turnover win, and was generally outplayed otherwise. The offense didn't do much beyond cash in field position opportunities. They couldn't convert third downs, and looked mediocre in every category but turnovers. A win is a win...but the Chargers weren't anywhere near as good as that final score made it look. That's part of why the line moved in the favor of New Orleans this week.

GREEN BAY 28, NEW ORLEANS 27
Total Yardage: New Orleans 474, Green Bay 421
Rushing Yards: New Orleans 45, Green Bay 102
Passing Stats: New Orleans 35-54-0-429, Green Bay 31-41-1-319
Turnovers: New Orleans 0, Green Bay 2
Third Downs: New Orleans 52%, Green Bay 50%
Vegas Line: Green Bay by 7.5, total of 53

Well, we're looking at a very clean offensive game from the Saints, yet they still couldn't win! Almost 500 yards with no giveaways and the Saints couldn't get to 30 points. Moving in the middle of the field is something the team can't afford given their own soft defense. They need to convert all of those yards into more points. We are concerned with the lack of rushing offense for New Orleans. You regulars know how much weight we put on that stat in the NFL, even in this modern passing era. It's a sign of weakness if about 90% of your yards are coming through the air.

BEST EXPECTATION
To us, tonight comes down to a couple of key categories. First, what's going to happen when San Diego's surprisingly mediocre offense is on the field against the Saints surprisingly horrible defense. Can the Chargers drive the field for enough points to hang with Drew Brees given how LITTLE of that they've been doing vs. a soft schedule? Second, will the Saints bring a super-motivated effort to send a message to the commissioner in their first national TV game of the 2012 season. Yes, last week vs. Green Bay was a showcase game. But, Sunday Night brings their first exclusive TV window in prime time. In terms of intangibles, this should represent the best of what New Orleans can bring. And, if they DON'T bring a special effort, that means they've already flushed 2012 down the toilet mentally.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his team of experts to find the best option in this game (which could turn out to be a total rather than a team side). Be sure to check the home page of this website for Sunday's big play bulletins. Chargers/Saints might be a major release, or might be part of a TV Parlay, depending on how the information comes together just before posting time.

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Back with you Monday with a stat preview of Houston vs. the New York Jets. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports!

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Nov

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