NFL Picks: Wait for Latest Word on Brees' Status vs. Panthers & Back Saints +9.5

Joe Gavazzi

Friday, September 25, 2015 7:07 PM UTC

Friday, Sep. 25, 2015 7:07 PM UTC

Each week in this space, I isolate the NFL Lone Ranger Contrary Play of the Week. It is a blend of statistical, situational and technical analysis that will result in an outstanding NFL pick.

New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers (-3) - 1:00 EST
New Orleans visits division rival Carolina for this 1 PM Eastern start. The two teams have had dichotomous beginnings to the season. The Saints have started 0-2 SU ATS, while the Panthers have begun 2-0 SU ATS. This is one of 4 games on the Week 3 NFL card, in which 0-2 SU ATS teams face 2-0 SU ATS opponents. As such, this is the most contrary selection of the 4, making it my NFL pick as the NFL Lone Ranger Play of the Week.

In week 1, New Orleans was soundly beaten by Arizona 31-19, being outrushed 120-54. In week 2, the Saints were a double digit favorite at home vs Tampa Bay. Many look for a bounce back, both after the New Orleans victory, and to reverse their 0-5 SU ATS home finish of last year (which was preceded by a 20-0, 18-2 ATS run at home). We confidently stepped in with “Tampa Bay + the points” and watched New Orleans again get outrushed 139-109 in a 26-19 loss. That means for the two games, that New Orleans is being outrushed 130/4.3 to 79/3.4.

The beginning for Carolina is totally dichotomous. The Carolina Panthers broke from the gate with an expected 20-9 win a Jacksonville in a workman like fashion. In last week’s 24-17 home victory against Houston, they controlled the line of scrimmage, outrushing the Texans 172-61. Neither of the wins have been dominant (that is seldom Carolina’s style), but Carolina is outrushing opponents 139/4.1 to 79/3.6.

From a defensive perspective, the Panthers allow just 13 PPG, only 283 YPG, and 4.0 defensive YP play. Compare those numbers to New Orleans’ 29 PPG defense that allows 380 YPG, and 6.7 YP play, better only than New England and San Francisco. All of those reasons above, including the fact that Carolina is on a 7-1 SU run (lost only to Seattle in the playoffs), and New Orleans is on a 2-8 SU slide, make one scratch his head at this line. In addition, what if QB Drew Brees (rotator cuff) is unable to make post?

But all the above are exactly the reasons why this contrary play might just work. Certainly, it is not because HC Rivera is 12-5-2 ATS as home chalk, or because the Panthers are 8-3 ATS home in divisional frays. Or that Panthers’ LB Kuechly may possibly return. Looking for support for a New Orleans team who no one will back this week? Consider the bounce back number for Saints’ HC Peyton, who is 20-5 ATS vs greater than .500 teams who are off consecutive victories, and the fact that the New Orleans Saints are 15-2 ATS as road dog when sandwiched between home games. It’s very tough to pick up the phone this week and say, “ give me the Saints +3-.” No bookmaker is going to hear much of that this Sunday, which is why you, me, and the Lone Ranger are virtually assured of this victory again this week. No hurry to make this play, as QB Brees continues to be listed as questionable (rotator cuff). Should he not make post, Luke McCown will get the start with the line zooming to a TD or more.  Be patient, as this would put the NFL odds in our favor even more with the extra value.

NFL Pick: Saints +9.5 at 5Dimes

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