Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (9-1)

The Saints have had an incredible 3-week stretch. They started as home underdogs week 9 against the Rams, but ended up winning that game by 10, handing the Rams their first loss and putting themselves in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the NFC. They then had a pair of potential letdown spots, going on the road to Cincinnati week 10 after that big win over the Rams and then playing a sub-.500 Eagles team at home week 11 with this divisional clash looming just 4 days later, but they won both games by a combined 78 points, becoming the third team in the past 30 years to win back-to-back games by 35+ points.

There are reasons to like the Falcons in this one as 13-point underdogs. Quarterback Matt Ryan is playing as well as he ever has and should be perfectly capable of getting a backdoor cover late against a Saints defense that has been inconsistent this season. They also almost beat the Saints in Atlanta earlier this year and are in a good spot in a same season divisional rematch. Divisional road underdogs are 68-40 ATS since 2002 in the regular season against a team that previously beat them as underdogs.

Despite that, I’m taking the Saints, who are playing well enough right now to be favored by two touchdowns in this one. The Falcons gave up 43 points in the first matchup and their defense remains one of the worst in the league with linebacker Deion Jones still sidelined. This could be a blowout that gets out of hand early, like the Saints’ past two games. Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense could keep it somewhat competitive, but I’d feel comfortable having the Saints in this one for pick ‘em purposes.

New Orleans Saints 38 Atlanta Falcons 24

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -13

Confidence: None

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-1)

The Eagles have obviously gotten off to a disappointing start, going 4-5 a year after winning the Super Bowl. Last week was arguably their most disappointing loss, as they lost a key divisional game against the Cowboys at home as 7.5-point favorites. After that loss, the public seems to have soured on them and, as a result, this line shifted from New Orleans -6.5 on the early line last week to New Orleans -8 this week, crossing the key number of 7. Typically I love going against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, and this game is no different.

The Saints are definitely a dominant team and are coming off arguably their best performance of the year, winning 51-14 in Cincinnati (also probably part of why this line shifted), but the Bengals are not nearly the team they were earlier in the year because of injuries and blowout wins aren’t necessarily predictive of future blowout wins. Teams that outscored their previous opponent by 35+ points, on average, outscore their next opponent by an average of just 5.20 points per game.

At 8 points, this line is too high. The Eagles’ record isn’t good, but they’ve been better than their record suggests, with a positive point differential (+15) and a first down rate differential that ranks 5th in the NFL (+4.75%). All 5 of their losses have come by less than a touchdown and they won the first down rate in two of those losses, including last week’s loss in Dallas, a game that swung on a Philadelphia turnover, two Dallas 4th down conversions, and a failed Philadelphia 4th down conversion. Carson Wentz has actually only lost by more than a touchdown just 4 times in 36 career starts, with 3 of those losses coming in his rookie year, which is relevant considering where this line is.

The injuries are starting to pile up for the Eagles, with running back Jay Ajayi, defensive end Derek Barnett, safety Rodney McLeod, and now cornerback Ronald Darby out for the season, with defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan still yet to return after off-season back surgery, but this is such a talented roster that they’re still one of the better teams in the league on paper even with some key players missing. Players like left tackle Jason Peters and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (and obviously quarterback Carson Wentz as well) were lost for the season during last year’s Super Bowl run and now are healthy and playing well.

The Eagles also get right tackle Lane Johnson back this week, after he missed last week’s battle with the Cowboys, while the Saints were dealt a huge injury blow when they lost left tackle Terron Armstead for an extended period of time with a shoulder injury. Armstead is one of the best left tackles in the league, so his absence should be noticeable for this offense. The general public doesn’t pay much attention to offensive line injuries, so I doubt Armstead’s absence affected this line much, but that injury should have affected this line more than the result of either of these teams’ games last week. Without Armstead, I have the Saints calculated as 5.5-point favorites in this one, so we’re getting significant line value with the Eagles.

The Eagles are also in a better spot, as they don’t have to play again in 4 days like the Saints do. Favorites are 51-71 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football and the Saints could easily be looking forward this week to their upcoming Thanksgiving clash with the Falcons. The Eagles, meanwhile, have only an easy home game against the Giants on deck and should be fully focused in a game they need to stay in the playoff picture. They might not win straight up, but I love their chances of keeping this one close. This is my Pick of the Week.

New Orleans Saints 31 Philadelphia Eagles 27

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +8

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (7-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)

I’ve picked the Saints every week since week 3, after they got off to one of their typical slow starts (2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, 56-38 ATS after week 2), and they’ve covered in all 6 games, after failing to cover in their first two. This is a tough spot for the Saints, coming off of a big upset win at home over the Rams, with a game against the defending defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles on deck, but they are still worth picking this week.

The reason why has more to do with their opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a terrible injury situation. The Bengals were banged up before their bye, losing tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard, but somehow are the most banged up they’ve been all season coming out of the bye, after losing key edge rusher Carl Lawson and #1 wide receiver AJ Green late in their final game before the bye. The Bengals 5-3 record looks nice, but they aren’t the same team they were early in the season with all of their missing personnel. The Saints are not worth betting as 5.5 point road favorites in a tough spot, but they should be able to win this one by at least a touchdown and keep their covering streak going.

New Orleans Saints 28 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (6-1)

I’ve bet on the Saints every week since week 3, after they got off to one of their typical slow starts (2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, 55-38 ATS after week 2), and they’ve covered in all 5 games, after failing to cover in their first two. That being said, it’s a lot harder being confident in the Saints this week, as 1.5 point home underdogs against the undefeated Rams. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -2, but any line value within the 3s is not terribly valuable, given how few games are decided by 3 points or fewer.

The Saints are an obvious top-5 team this year and could easily win this game at home, but the Rams are also a step up in class and it’s hard to be confident betting against them in a game they basically just have to win to cover, especially with talented slot receiver Cooper Kupp returning from a two game absence. I’m taking the Saints, who are in a great spot with only a trip to Cincinnati on deck after arguably their biggest game of the season this week (home underdogs are 23-9 ATS since 2014 before being road favorites), but this is a low confidence pick.

New Orleans Saints 26 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +1.5

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1)

These two teams met in the post-season on this same field in what ended up being one of the craziest post-season finishes of all time, with the Vikings scoring on a 61-yard, last second touchdown to pull away with a 29-24 victory and advance to the NFC Championship game. That was a very evenly matched game, but a lot has changed since then. Both teams remain in contention in 2018, but the Saints have looked a lot better than the Vikings in doing it, going 5-1 with a +41 point differential and ranking 7th in first down rate differential at +3.74%, despite getting off to one of their signature slow starts (2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, 54-38 ATS after week 2).

The Vikings, on the other hand, have a solid record, but have not looked good in doing it. Despite an easy schedule that has featured the Cardinals, Jets, and Bills, the Vikings are just +12 in point differential and rank just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.57%. The big problem for them has been injuries. After having the fewest adjusted games lost to injury on defense in the league in 2017, the Vikings have had numerous injuries to key players in 2018.

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph could return from a one-game absence this week, but that’s not a guarantee, as he didn’t get in a full practice all week. Defensive end Everson Griffen will be back after missing the last 5 games with mental health issues, but he probably won’t play every down immediately in his return. Even if those two play and play well, the Vikings will still be missing outside linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Andrew Sendejo, cornerback Mike Hughes, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, four defensive starters. They will also be without left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Tom Compton, and running back Dalvin Cook on the offensive side of the ball.

The Saints, meanwhile, are close to fully healthy and playing great football, after winning last week in a tough one on the road in Baltimore. Despite the wide talent gap between these two teams, the Saints are just 1 point road favorites in this one. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -4, so we’re getting significant line value that crosses the key number of 3. The Saints have a great chance to cover in a game they basically just need to win to cover. This is my Pick of the Week this week.

New Orleans Saints 26 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -1

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2)

The Ravens are probably the team I was most wrong on coming into the season, as they’ve proven to be much improved on both sides of the ball. Their defense put up good numbers in 2017, but they also played 6 backup quarterbacks, which made their numbers look better than how they actually played. In 2018, the Ravens already have wins against the Broncos, Steelers, and Titans, all capable opponents, with their two losses coming on the road in Cleveland and Cincinnati in games in which they were competitive in the first down rate battle.

Despite a decent schedule, the Ravens have statistically been the top defense in the league through 6 weeks, allowing a 27.52% first down rate, and it hasn’t been close, as 2nd ranked Jacksonville allows a 31.28% first down rate. In 6 games, they’ve allowed just 93 first downs and 8 offensive touchdowns. Offensively, they haven’t been great, but they still rank 17th in first down rate, a big improvement over last year’s stagnant unit, and more than good enough to win games the way their defense is playing.

That being said, I think we’re still getting some line value with the visiting Saints this week, as 3 point underdogs. This line suggests these two teams are about equal, but the Saints are one of the top few teams in the league and I don’t quite put the Ravens in their class, especially with top cornerback Marlon Humphrey questionable after getting hurt in practice this week. This line shifted from Baltimore -1 on the early line to Baltimore -3 this week, a big line movement considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, as a result of the Ravens’ shutout win in Tennessee last week, but the Saints are a much tougher test, even if this one is back in Baltimore. The Saints, who have been on a roll since getting off to one of their trademark slow starts, are worth a bet this week.

New Orleans Saints 24 Baltimore Ravens 23 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)

The Saints gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season, losing at home week 1 to the Buccaneers and then almost losing at the Browns at home week 2, but that’s been the case in recent years for them too and they’ve always gotten better as the season has gone on. They are just 2-12 ATS in the first 2 games of the season since 2012, but 52-38 ATS the rest of the season. With Mark Ingram returning, this is arguably the most balanced offense in the league and the defense still has talent, even if they haven’t played all that well to begin the season. They could easily keep rolling this week.

Their opponent, the Washington Redskins, are not a pushover and this line is a decent size at 6 points, but I think we’re still getting some line value with the Saints and the Saints are in a great spot going into the bye. Favorites of 6 or more tend to take care of business going into a bye, going 37-16 ATS since 2014, including 27-11 ATS at home. The Saints have a good chance to win this one by double digits, so they’re worth a bet as anything less than touchdown favorites.

New Orleans Saints 31 Washington Redskins 21

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -6

Confidence: High