New Orleans Saints (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)
The Patriots have split their first two games, but they would likely be 2-0 if they could have held onto one of two fumbles in their 1-point loss to the Dolphins. Fumbles are one of the least predictive metrics week-to-week and, in more predictive metrics, the Patriots held the clear edge over the Dolphins, despite the final score, as they had the higher first down rate (33.33% vs. 30.77%) and yards per play (5.61 vs. 4.98).
Their significant win over the Jets last week was to be expected, but it was good to see the Patriots take care of business in a game in which the Jets never really had a shot. I had the Patriots as one of my underrated teams going into the season because of how much talent they added this off-season and, despite their .500 record, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind on them thus far. If anything, their week one loss may make them even more underrated, as they likely would be getting a lot more hype at 2-0.
The Saints, meanwhile, have been the least predictable team in the league thus far, winning 38-3 as 3.5-point home underdogs against the Packers and losing 26-7 as 3.5-point road favorites against the Panthers. It’s likely that the Saints brought their best game at the same time the Packers were flat and then followed that up by being flat off of a big upset win the following week in Carolina, but it’s hard to pin down how good this team is.
They’re clearly not as good as last season after several key off-season departures and they are missing key players due to injury and suspension, including top wide receiver Michael Thomas, talented kicker Will Lutz, top interior defender David Onyemata, talented center Erik McCoy, starting linebacker Kwon Alexander, and starting defensive end Marcus Davenport. Their defense has continued playing at a high level, but their offense actually hasn’t looked good in either game and ranks only behind the Dolphins in terms of first down rate.
My roster rankings still have the Saints right about average, but I have the Patriots as several points above average, so this line, which favors the Patriots by a field goal at home and suggests these two teams are about even, is off by a few points. In a normal week, this would be a candidate for Pick of the Week, given how much line value we’re getting with New England, but the possibility that the Patriots are caught looking forward to their matchup with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week limits this to a smaller bet for me. Even still, there is enough line value for the Patriots to be worth betting as 3-point favorites.
New England Patriots 26 New Orleans Saints 20
Pick against the spread: New England -3