Monday Night Football Picks: More Caring Saints Keep Lions at Bay

Doug Upstone

Saturday, December 19, 2015 9:41 PM GMT

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 9:41 PM GMT

The Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints clash in the final Monday Night Football game of the season, and as usual, the sportsbooks are offering intriguing NFL odds.

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NFL Pick: Saints -3
Best Line Offered: at Bet365

 

This will be the case for this NFC affair, but with the total at 51, the second-highest of the Monday night season, at least the entertainment value should be worth viewing.

Less than year removed from being playoff team, Detroit started 0-5 and 1-7 (1-7 ATS also) and ownership started firing coaches and upper management until basically all there was left was head coach Jim Caldwell on a tenuous perch, the players and a few water boys. After bye week, the Lions played rejuvenated and went on 3-0 SU and ATS run before fate and poor execution stepped in and they fell to Green Bay in Hail Mary and followed that up with non-caring loss at St. Louis.

New Orleans turned over more than 30 percent of their roster and it showed in 0-3 start. The Saints found their bearings and won four of next five to reach .500 and looked ready to make playoff push. Instead, their brutally awful defense did them in with four consecutive losses and Robb Ryan was shown the door.

The question for football handicappers and those placing NFL picks is which team wants it more and is willing to do what it takes. Time to examine both sides to formulate opinion.

 

Reasons why Lions Cover and Possibly Wins
Because Detroit is last in the NFL in rushing at 79.3 yards a game, they have to utilize rush attempts and hope for three yards per carry to prevent New Orleans from being in full pass rush mode all game. Lions coaches have to stick with and do a much better job of locating Calvin Johnson, who only caught one pass last week (5-yards) against St. Louis. Sure Johnson is not arguably the top receiver in football anymore, but he's their most dangerous threat and if you have to force feed him or get the ball to Golden Tate or Lance Moore (former Saint) to free him up, that's what Detroit has to do. New Orleans is 31st in total defense and is equally inefficient against the run or pass, Matthew Stafford and offense should have their way.

After four very strong defensive performances, the Lions defense lacked intensity and let St. Louis run for 203 yards against them last Sunday. With New Orleans offense line nothing special and no Mark Ingram to tote the pigskin, the Detroit defense will have every opportunity to make the Saints one dimensional. They are tied for ninth in sacks with 34 and need to pressure Drew Brees.

 

Reasons why the Saints Cover
Let's begin with an obvious one, New Orleans in primetime. When the Saints are at home and playing at night, they have been virtually unbeatable at 16-1 SU (includes playoffs) and 14-2-1 ATS since Jan. 24th, 2010.

Drew Brees still has old reliable Marquis Colston to work with, but has found a comfort zone with newbies Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, who have great speed and could post big plays versus Lions secondary that in 22nd in yards per pass attempt allowed.

The Saints linebackers and secondary has been decimated with injuries, which is part of their season-long failures. Ryan's defense is too high risk-high reward without the right talent and new DC Dennis Allen has them playing safer to prevent big plays. What New Orleans has to do is win first and second down because Detroit is just 24th in third down conversions (36.4), which helps the defense immensely.

 

Betting Odds and What to Look For
NFL odds have New Orleans at -3 with aforementioned total of 51. The Saints look to be the more caring team, almost upsetting Carolina at home two weeks ago and winning as underdogs 24-17 at Tampa Bay last week. Detroit played like they had not gotten over the "MoTown Meltdown" last week and they are 1-8 ATS the last four weeks of the regular season.

With the Saints sterling home primetime record and favorites 22-5 ATS off a win by seven points or less over a division rival when playing on Monday night, for sports picks I'll take the home team to cover.

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