New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Ever since Minshew Mania went to a new level in a Thursday Night win over the Titans in week 3, I’ve thought the Jaguars are overrated. Even with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew producing at the level he’s produced at so far, the Jaguars rank just 23rd in first down rate and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minshew fall back to earth going forward. Defensively, they aren’t much better, as they rank 21st in first down rate allowed. Their dominant defense in 2017 has lost 8 of its top-13 in terms of snaps played, including cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who seems likely to miss his third straight game with a back injury, unwilling to risk further injury for a team that won’t commit to him financially long-term.
The Jaguars still seem to be overrated, favored by 3 points at home over the Saints, who have a much more complete team, especially with defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins back healthy. The question for the Saints is quarterback play, with backup Teddy Bridgewater filling in while Drew Brees recovers from a thumb injury. Bridgewater has won all three of his starts, but the first two wins came despite Bridgewater struggling and despite the Saints losing the first down battle in both games.
Bridgewater showed a lot of progress last week though, leading the Saints to a 43.28% first down rate on 11 drives, after leading them to a 30.63% first down rate on his first 27 drives. He has a history of being a solid starter in this league before his injury, so it’s possible he’s turned a corner and he has a strong team around him either way. The one concern is running back Alvin Kamara, who missed Friday’s practice with an ankle injury, but it sounds like he’ll be able to play through his injury. This line is up to a field goal in some places, and I have this line calculated at even, so the Saints are worth a small bet.
New Orleans Saints 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3