San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
It’s arguable the Saints’ win over the Cowboys was the most lopsided contest in NFL history. While the Saints set the NFL record with 40 first downs, the Cowboys ran just 43 plays. The Saints’ +31 first down margin was the best in NFL history. The closest came when the Steelers had 29 more first downs than the Browns in 1999 in a 43-0 victory. They outgained the Cowboys by 431 yards, the most lopsided yardage battle since the Patriots in a 59-0 victory over the Titans in 2009. It would have been even more lopsided if the Saints hadn’t muffed a punt and the Cowboys hadn’t recovered an onside kick. Because of those 2 things, the Saints had just 8 drives and scored touchdowns on 7 of them. It was an absurd destruction.
The Saints have now not just won, but covered in 14 straight home games under Sean Payton. They’ve won these games by an average of 22 points per game, with only two being decided by 10 points or less and none being decided by fewer than 6 points. As a result of last week, the Saints now lead the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential. They are moving the chains at an 82% rate, as opposed to 70% for opponents. The 49ers, meanwhile, are moving the chains at a 72% rate, as opposed to 69% for their opponents, ranking 10th in the NFL. That suggests this line should be around 9 points, before you even take into account the Saints’ home dominance.
So Saints -3.5 should be a no brainer right? Well, not necessarily. The 49ers are coming off of a loss to the Panthers and they have been deadly off of a loss in the Jim Harbaugh era. They are 6-3 ATS off a loss under Jim Harbaugh, including 8-3 ATS if you take into account week 1 games off of a playoff loss. If you look closer, that’s even more impressive as those two non-covers included a 14 point win as 16.5 point favorites and a 7 point win as 7.5 point favorites, a game they would have covered against the Seahawks if Jim Harbaugh hadn’t declined a safety, in favor of just running the clock out.
With the exception of a fluky home loss to the Colts, they have only lost back-to-back games once in the Jim Harbaugh era. If you exclude that Colts game, they have won all 8 of their regular season games off of a loss by an average of 18 points per game. This line has actually shifted past the key number of 3 in the past week, as it was at 2.5 last week and the public is still all over the Saints. I hate backing huge publicly backed sides and that could be an overreaction to the 49ers loss to a very underrated Panthers team. Of course, it could also be a proper reaction to the Saints’ dominant home performance over the Cowboys.
The 49ers are also in a good spot. Non-divisional road dogs are 37-24 ATS before being non-divisional road favorites. The 49ers have no distractions on the horizon with a trip to Washington up next. The Saints, meanwhile, are in a bad spot as favorites before a Thursday Night Game. Teams are 27-50 ATS in that spot since 2008, including 11-26 ATS before a divisional game. We saw both the Titans and Colts fall victim to this big time last week, both losing straight up as huge home favorites. However, it’s unlikely that the Saints overlook the 49ers in favor of a trip to the 2-7 Falcons next week.
Besides, teams are 50-24 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road favorites since 2008. Teams are 9-11 ATS in that situation before a Thursday Night Game since 1989. That’s not a big sample size and it’s not a strong trend or anything, but I think, if anything, the non-divisional home favorites before divisional road favorites trend should cancel out the Thursday Night trend. I don’t think the Saints will be nearly as distracted as the Colts and Titans were last week, if they are at all.
It’s not a massive play on the Saints or anything, but I think it’s essentially an auto-bet on the Saints at home at this point. The Saints could also carry over momentum from last week’s win, as teams are 45-28 ATS since 1989 off of a game in which they score 48 or more points. If Vernon Davis is ruled out with his concussion, I’ll make this a high confidence pick because Colin Kaepernick has been pretty lost without him this season, but for now it’s a medium confidence pick.
New Orleans Saints 27 San Francisco 49ers 17
Pick against spread: New Orleans -3.5