Detroit Lions (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-6)
The Saints enter this game at 5-6 and the Lions enter at 7-4, but the Saints have been much better than their record this season, while the Lions have been much worse than their record. On the season, the Saints have 43 more first downs than their opponents (the 2nd best differential in the league) and 11 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents (tied for the 3rd best differential in the league), but are just 5-6 because of because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They could easily be 7-4 or 8-3 right now if a few things had gone their way.
The Lions, meanwhile, have trailed in the 4th quarter of all 11 games, but have managed to pull off the comeback in 7 of them. That’s impressive, but hardly sustainable. While the Saints enter this game 4th in first down rate differential, the Lions enter in 26th as they’ve allowed 12 more first downs than they’ve gained and 4 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve scored. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a ton of line value in the wake of New Orleans’ 49-21 blowout victory over the Rams last week, as this line has jumped from 3.5 on the early line to 6 this week. With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Lions here for pick ‘em purposes, as underdogs of 6 or more are 149-99 ATS since 1989 before being favorites of 6 or more, which the Lions will be next week when they host the Bears. With no real upcoming distractions, the Lions have a good chance of keeping it close against a superior opponent once again. The Lions don’t have a loss by more than a touchdown all season. I wouldn’t put money on either side though.
Update: There have been some injury developments on Saturday. Top linebacker Tahir Whitehead was ruled out for the Lions despite practicing in a limited fashion this week. Wide receiver Marvin Jones has also practiced in a limited fashion this week, but reportedly will also sit tomorrow, though he hasn’t officially been ruled out. It’s a bad sign for his chances that the Lions called another wide receiver up off the practice squad though. Despite those developments, this line has dropped from 6 to 5.5 today. It’s still a no confidence pick, but I’m switching to the Saints.
New Orleans Saints 34 Detroit Lions 27
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5