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3-0 Jets, Saints, Broncos highlight late NFL slate

One of my handicapping analyst friends believes that a good blitz – and doing it often – is the key to knocking any good quarterback off his game.

Drew BreesIt’s hard to argue with him, because there are many qualitative examples of that strategy coming to fruition. He was especially excited to lay down money on the Jets in their battle with the Saints on Sunday. After all, Rex Ryan has New York blitzing 63.4 percent of the time, and the Jets are 3-0 against the number.

Problem is, Drew Brees has a 145.1 passer rating against the blitz this season, going 12-of-18 for 212 yards with two touchdowns. Think I’ll advise you to take the Saints on Sunday. 

NY Jets at New Orleans (-7, 45) – 4:05 PM ET, CBS

Two worlds collide when the undefeated Saints (3-0, 3-0 ATS) meet the equally perfect Jets (3-0, 3-0 ATS) at the Superdome.

New York is ranked third overall in total defense at 256.0 yards against per game, and is second in points allowed per contest (11.0 PPG). It’s not as if the Jets have started the season against lackluster competition, either. New York followed up its 16-9 win over New England in Week 2 with a 24-17 payday against Tennessee last week.

New Orleans doesn’t have the same resume in terms of opponents, but you can’t deny its success in putting points on the board. The Saints scored only 27 points in their 20-point win at Buffalo last week, as quarterback Drew Brees let the running game do most of the work for a change. Despite its performance on offense, New Orleans ranks first in the NFL in scoring offense with 40.0 points per game, with Brees tops in passer rating (118.1) through three games.

Brees has the edge against counterpart Mark Sanchez on Sunday, and that’s another reason the sharp play is with the Saints. Expect Brees to do well enough against Ryan’s blitz to put some points on the board, and count on Sanchez having trouble with the crowd at the Superdome. For all the cookie cutter stadiums built over the past number of years, New Orleans remains a franchise with a legitimate home field advantage. It’ll pay off for the Saints with the inexperienced Sanchez under center for New York.

Cornerbacks Donald Strickland (ankle) and Lito Sheppard have both been ruled out of Sunday’s game, so that doesn’t help the Jets either. New York needs all the help it can get in the secondary, even if Brees has moderate success against the blitz.

Dallas at Denver (+3, 42.5) – 4:15 PM ET, FOX

Unlike the Jets, the Broncos (3-0, 3-0 ATS) have posted their impressive record against the likes of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Oakland. Bettors get a better sense of where Denver is at when it takes on the Cowboys (2-1, 2-1 ATS) on Sunday afternoon at Invesco Field at Mile High.

The Broncos have allowed only 16 points in three games this season, but they haven’t faced an offense of the Cowboys’ caliber. Dallas is especially strong when it runs the ball, regardless of who’s in the backfield. Starting running back Marion Barber (strained left thigh) sat out the Cowboys’ 21-7 win as 9-point home chalk over Carolina in the Monday nighter, but Dallas rushed for 212 yards anyway.

Backup Felix Jones rambled for 94 yards on eight carries before leaving the game with a strained ligament in his left knee, but third-stringer Tashard Choice stepped in to rack up 82 yards on 18 attempts with a touchdown for the Cowboys. Barber is expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday, while Jones is listed as doubtful.

Denver is also adept at pounding the ball on the ground, ranking fourth overall in rushing so far this season. That’s three spots behind top-ranked Dallas, but the Broncos aren’t without depth of their own in the backfield. Denver amassed 215 rushing yards in its 23-3 win at Oakland last week, with the action mainly split between Correll Buckhalter (108 yards on 18 carries) and Knowshon Moreno (90 yards on 21 carries with a score).

The Broncos also played under the total for the third consecutive week against the Raiders, and expect the trend to continue against the Cowboys. With both teams turning to the running game ad nauseum on Sunday, it’s doubtful this game goes over the 42.5-point number on the NFL betting odds board.