NFL Picks: Great Betting Value Found on Saints -3.5 vs. Cowboys on Sunday Night Football

Sterling Xie

Saturday, October 3, 2015 11:01 PM GMT

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 11:01 PM GMT

With the recent news that Drew Brees is expected to suit up for the Saints on Sunday night against the Cowboys, laying the points with New Orleans at -3.5 might be the best current value for our NFL picks.

Opening Odds
Timing is critical to finding value in any NFL spread, and right now, bettors might have an extremely narrow window to cash in on one of the week’s best.

The Saints opened the week as 4.5-point favorites on the NFL odds board before seeing the line drop, as the public was understandably skeptical about an 0-3 squad with Luke McCown potentially under center.  Moreover, despite a traditionally dominant record when playing at home in the Superdome, New Orleans has hit an uncharacteristic rough patch dating back to the middle of last season, having lost five in a row at home.  Given that the Brandon Weeden-led Dallas Cowboys looked relatively efficient in the first half of last week’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons, it wasn’t necessarily a stretch to believe Dallas could cover the initial spread.

However, though the New Orleans Saints started 0-2 with Drew Brees under center, New Orleans should be considered the favorite to cover the 3.5-point spread this Sunday. For one, the Saints will be the healthier team, a truth that extends beyond the fact that New Orleans will have its regular starting quarterback and Dallas won’t.  Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd, the top two defensive backs in the Saints’ much beleaguered secondary, will likely make their 2015 debuts after being listed as probable on this week’s injury report.  The Saints have thus far made due with castoffs like Delvin Breaux and Kenny Phillips, but the secondary should receive a huge upgrade in talent against the Cowboys.  Dallas won’t have nearly as full an arsenal for the game, as the long-term absences of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory have robbed the Cowboys of a foundational trio.  Moreover, Sunday is the last game of the four-game suspensions for Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy, two players who will likely assume three-down roles upon their returns.

Though Dallas’ depleted defense has largely overachieved this year, the lack of depth on the front seven finally caught up to the unit against the Atlanta Falcons last week, as Devonta Freeman and the ground game compiled 4.9 yards per carry.  That could represent trouble against a Saints offense that appeared to retool itself around the ground game this offseason, re-signing Mark Ingram while adding veterans C.J. Spiller and center Max Unger.   New Orleans has typically been trailing and unable to run the ball as frequently as it would prefer this season (the Saints have run the ball on just 35.2 percent of offensive plays, 26th in the league), but that hasn’t prevented Ingram from building on his breakout 2014 season.  The fifth-year back has compiled 279 yards from scrimmage, a mark that ranked 11th among running backs through three weeks.  After totaling 53 receptions during his first four years, Ingram is already roughly one-third of the way to that total this year, with 16 catches for 152 yards.  Assuming Spiller sees an uptick in snaps after easing his way in during his first action last week following offseason knee surgery, the Saints can deploy a two-way threat regardless of who they rotate between Ingram, Spiller and Khiry Robinson.

If New Orleans can control the ball with their multitalented backs, that might place an untenable burden on Weeden’s shoulders.  Though Weeden averaged a robust 8.9 yards per attempt on 22-for-26 passing, just one of his passes traveled more than 15 yards in the air, and just two ended up going for over 20 yards.  Weeden’s conservative style could be the perfect panacea for a Saints defense that has struggled mightily against the deep ball thus far.  New Orleans is currently allowing an eye-popping 15.3 yards per completion, the worst mark in the league by over a full yard.  Some of those struggles obviously stem from the absences of Lewis and Byrd on the back end, but this problem isn’t new, as the Saints ranked 29th in yards allowed per completion (11.8) last year.

 

Betting Prediction
Ultimately, while the Saints’ home “mystique” was always likely overstated, playing at the Superdome shouldn’t suddenly represent an unpalatable situation for New Orleans.  Even with their recent skid, the Saints are still 23-10 at home over the past five years, the ninth-best record in the league.  With Brees back under center and New Orleans desperate for a win, lay the points on the Saints with your NFL picks before the line shoots back up to or above where it originally opened.

College Football Picks: Saints -3.5 at Pinnacle 

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