Sunday Night preview
SAINTS NOT MARCHING ON THE ROAD, MUST WIN IN DALLAS SUNDAY NIGHT
Many longtime handicappers attributed the road woes of the New Orleans Saints last season to being a one-year fluke. Drew Brees is a future Hall-of-Famer. He and this head coach have won a Super Bowl together. You’re going to say that THOSE GUYS don’t know how to win on the road?
Well, a few weeks into the 2014 season, and the same issue has reared its ugly head. New Orleans lost its season opener at Atlanta as a field goal favorite. That’s not the end of the world because Atlanta may be pretty good again this year. But, the Saints followed that up with a loss at Cleveland as a favorite of almost a touchdown. Cleveland is 0-2 in its other games. Very clearly, what’s happened so far is a continuation of last year rather than evidence of a fluke!
Dallas is better than Cleveland, and may be fairly close to Atlanta when it’s all said and done given wins the past two weeks for the Cowboys over Tennessee and St. Louis. Can New Orleans win at Dallas when they couldn’t win at Atlanta or Cleveland? Why does the market continue to price them like a playoff team on the road when they don’t play that way?!
Let’s see if any answers are in our key indicator stats…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
New Orleans: 1-2 (lost at Atlanta, lost at Cleveland, beat Minnesota)
Dallas: 2-1 (lost to SF, won at Tennessee, won at St. Louis)
Not anything there to suggest much difference between the teams. Dallas actually had good stats vs. San Francisco but lost because of a turnover debacle. New Orleans wasn’t as dominant as expected in the numbers last week vs. Teddy Bridgewater and New Orleans even though they did cover the spread.
New Orleans: 6.1 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Dallas: 5.7 on offense, 6.2 on defense
This is where you start to see the superiority of New Orleans. They have a positive differential even with that losing record against a road heavy schedule. Most importantly, you see that the New Orleans offense is positioned to have a HUGE day against the bad Dallas defense. The Saints have a shot at 6.5 to 7 yards per play because they’re already averaging 6.1 against Atlanta, Cleveland, and Minnesota…but now have an easier pathway to the end zone against Dallas. Those numbers are why New Orleans is the favorite.
New Orleans: -2
Problems here for both teams. You don’t go to the playoffs with a negative turnover differential. Both defenses have issues with forcing them because they aren’t aggressive enough. New Orleans HAS to get this turned around or they have no chance at chasing down the NFC powers even if they do right the ship. Dallas can’t thing BIG after their 2-1 start until Tony Romo plays a mistake-free game against a good team.
New Orleans: 1-2 ATS (cover was only by a point!)
Dallas: 2-1 ATS
Most important here is that New Orleans is 0-2 ATS on the road, which follows up on a disastrous 2013 vs. market expectations away from home too. The market may finally have it right with just a field goal against what is probably a non-playoff team. But, if you had moved the line three points from the Saints’ first two road games, they wouldn’t have covered those anyway!
Current Line: New Orleans by 3, total of 53.5
JIM HURLEY believes the single biggest factor towards determining the cover here is Tony Romo’s performance in the pocket. If he plays relatively clean, which he’s done often in his career but not often enough, then the Cowboys can win this game straight up more easily than either Atlanta or Cleveland did. If he melts down under the TV spotlight, then we have a blowout the other way because you can’t keep handing free points to Drew Brees.
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We’ll be previewing those Wildcard play-in games on game day, after digging deep in New England/Kansas City for you tomorrow. And, an early warning, there are finally some GREAT college football matchups to talk about next week! Possibilities for big game previews include LSU at Auburn, Stanford at Notre Dame, Alabama at Ole Miss, and Texas A&M at Mississippi State.
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