Bet Saints +2.5 vs. Colts in Week 3 of NFL Preseason

Jason Lake

Thursday, August 21, 2014 6:07 AM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 6:07 AM UTC

Sean Payton sure loves to win exhibition games. He brings a sparkling 20-11 ATS lifetime record into Saturday night’s Week 3 matchup between his New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.

There are four NFL teams with perfect records heading into Week 3 of the 2014 preseason. The New York Giants are more perfect than anyone else at 3-0 SU and ATS, thanks to that extra Hall of Fame Game in Canton. The other three teams: the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints. That’s three of the past five Super Bowl winners, plus last year’s runners-up. Not bad.

These are exhibition games, though, and of all four of these teams, only one stands out as an obvious “follow” candidate for betting on the NFL preseason. You may have already guessed we’re talking about the Saints. Head coach Sean Payton has turned these faux football games into his personal playground, improving his career record to 18-13 SU and 20-11 ATS following a pair of victories over the St. Louis Rams (–2 at home) and the Tennessee Titans (+3 away). Next up are the Indianapolis Colts, who have lost both their preseason games at 1-1 ATS. The Colts are getting 2.5 points at home on the NFL odds board as we go to press.

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Seed of Chuckstrong
We’ve already delved into Payton’s previous life as a hot-shot college quarterback and his quarter-century working the sidelines. Let’s turn our attention to his would-be victims on Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS). The Colts are in their third preseason under head coach Chuck Pagano – that includes the 2012 campaign, when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and missed most of the regular season. His career record thus far: 4-6 SU and 6-4 ATS.

While Payton is a card-carrying member of the Offensive Guru Club, Pagano cut his teeth on defense. He was a strong safety for the Wyoming Cowboys in the early ‘80s, earning a degree in marketing and moving directly under the headset, then climbing the defensive coaching ladder and eventually landing with the Colts in 2012. Pagano’s earned strong praise at just about every stop. He’s also earned plenty of cold, hard cash for Indy supporters at 21-11 ATS during the regular season (although 2012 interim head coach Bruce Arians deserves some of the credit). Oh, and back-to-back trips to the playoffs. Take that, cancer.


Don’t Call Me Shirley
It’s been a hell of a ride for the Chuckstrong Colts these past two years. They rallied under Arians, and then the returning Pagano, to go 11-5 SU and ATS in 2012, thanks in part to an unusually high third-down and fourth-down conversion rate. But did they regress in 2013? Nope. Indianapolis shocked the NFL betting world by winning the AFC South at 11-5 SU and 10-6 ATS.

Surely they can’t avoid the regression monsters for another season. Then again, this is a young and improving ball club with a potential franchise savior in third-year QB Andrew Luck. His ongoing development might be enough to keep Indy in the black. It had better: The 11-5 Colts only racked up 9.5 Estimated Wins and 9.4 Pythagorean Wins last year, according to the advanced stats at Football Outsiders. A major improvement over 2012’s measly 6.2 EW and 7.2 PW, yes, but unsustainable over the long haul nonetheless.

Indianapolis also seems to be lacking when it comes to depth – which is bound to show up during these exhibition games, as well as later on at the tail end of the regular season. And the Colts are missing several starters for Saturday’s game, including center Khaled Holmes (ankle). We’ll see if Chuckstrong can keep Indy afloat this year, but in the meantime, Payton and the Saints look like an insta-bet for Week 3 of the preseason.

NFL Pick: Take the Saints +2.5 (–105) at Heritage

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