San Diego Chargers (3-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-4)
Last year, the Chargers started 4-1. It was a shock to many people before they’re normally horrible early in the season, especially compared to later in the season. Prior to last year, The Chargers were 14-12 from weeks 1-4 under Philip Rivers and 41-11 (41-11!!!) from weeks 6-17. However, their 4-1 record was explainable because they were beating up on bad teams like Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, and Denver (Prebow). Eventually, they went on a 6 game losing streak, which essentially eliminated them from the playoffs, despite a strong 4-1 finish, as usual.
This year, they are 3-1, the 2nd straight year they’ve had a winning September record under Philip Rivers and still only the 2nd time in that time period that they’ve had a winning September record. Have they ended their normal September woes or is this going to be a repeat of last year? I lean more towards the latter. They’re not going to be as bad as they were last year. I still think they’ll win the division, but it’s worth noting who their 3 early season wins were against: Oakland, Tennessee, and Kansas City, who are all 1-3. Meanwhile, they got blown out at home by Atlanta and in spite of their 3-1 record, they do have a negative yards per play differential.
The Saints, however, are 0-4. In spite of that, you could still argue this is the 2nd best team they’ve played all year. Despite their record, I don’t believe the Saints are awful. They won 13 games last year and even without Sean Payton, they still have Drew Brees. They looked pretty good last week, almost winning in Lambeau Field and they should continue to look improved as they continue to adjust to life without Sean Payton. Teams that are 0-4 or worse are actually 6-2 ATS since 1989 as favorites of more than 3. This is truly New Orleans’ last stand and in the Superdome (where they were 9-0 ATS and SU last year), I expect this proud, veteran team to put up one final huge effort to save their season.
Meanwhile, this is the type of game San Diego normally loses. Facing Denver next week, they’re not going to be focused for a 0-4 non-conference opponent. They are just 4-8 ATS under Norv Turner in a non-conference game before a divisional game. They don’t do well with non-conference games in general, as illustrated by that Atlanta game. It’s only a small play because I haven’t really been able to get a read on either of these teams thus far this year (1-3 on San Diego’s game and 0-4 on New Orleans’ games) and because the “real” line formula says we do have line value with San Diego and because the public likes New Orleans too, but I do feel that New Orleans will play their best game of the season this week and do it against a San Diego team that has one of their patented “fall flat” games.
Public lean: New Orleans (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if San Diego covers)
Sharps lean: NO 20 SD 6
Final update: Sharps really love New Orleans. I liked them to begin with, but I’m adding a unit. This is their last stand and San Diego has proven they don’t really care about non-conference games under Norv Turner with a divisional game up next. They head home to face Denver next week.
New Orleans Saints 31 San Diego Chargers 24
Pick against spread: New Orleans -3.5 (-110) 3 units