New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)

I am legitimately shocked. The Saints had won 20 straight home games as long as they had both Drew Brees under center and Sean Payton on the sideline and they had 3 straight home games as favorites to move to 7-4 and run away with the pathetic NFC South. And they lost all 3. The types of things that are plaguing this team are the types of things that usually even out in the long run, but they have yet to do so for this team. They have a 1-5 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. They have a -9 turnover margin and a -3 return touchdown margin, both powered by a 42.31% fumble recovery rate that ranks 28th in the NFL.

The Saints’ defense isn’t any good at all, but their offense has been moving the ball very efficiently, leading the NFL in first downs by a wide margin. They rank 10th in the NFL, moving the chains at a league best 80.65% rate, as opposed to 77.51% for their opponents, a differential of 3.13%. That’s why I think they’re better than their record and why they are going to be underrated and provide value going forward. However, this week they play the Steelers, who have been better than New Orleans both in record and actual level of play. They’re also on the road, where they haven’t been great recently, and the Steelers have a strong homefield advantage.

The Steelers rank 8th, moving the chains at a 77.42% rate, as opposed to 73.49% for their opponents, a differential of 3.93%. At home, the Steelers are 37-27 ATS at home in the Mike Tomlin era. Meanwhile, the Saints are 4-11 ATS on the road over the past 2 seasons. We’re not getting any line value with the Saints on the road as 4.5 point underdogs here in Pittsburgh, a superior team with a strong homefield advantage.

However, I’m still taking the Saints here as long as the line is higher than 4 because they’re in a good spot. For one, Drew Brees is 21-7 ATS off of a loss since 2008 as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline, though that hasn’t been the case this season and he’s only 5-3 ATS on the road off of a loss. Brees is also 18-12 ATS as an underdog since coming to the Saints in 2006 as long as Sean Payton is on the sideline, though just 14-10 ATS on the road.

The Steelers also have a tough road game in Cincinnati next week, while the Saints return home for to play the Panthers, a team they’ve already beaten, in a game they’ll almost definitely be favored in. Non-divisional road underdogs are 119-94 ATS since 2002 before being divisional home favorites, while non-divisional home favorites are 101-124 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. Combining the two, teams are 102-63 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. I’m not confident in the Saints at all on the road against a tough opponent though. This line isn’t high enough for me to be confident.

Pittsburgh Steelers 34 New Orleans Saints 31

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +4.5

Confidence: Low

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