Pair of NFL Picks: Saints -9.5 & 'Over' 51 Points vs. Vikings

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 8:05 PM GMT

The Saints were a chic NFC Super Bowl pick by people who didn't go chalk and take Seattle. However, history shows New Orleans can likely kiss the postseason goodbye with a loss Sunday to Minnesota. The Saints are 9.5-point favorites on NFL odds.

Must-Win Game For New Orleans
Since the NFL expanded the playoff field to 12 teams, just three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3, which would be the Saints' predicament if they are upset in their home opener vs. the Vikings. The last club to pull off 0-3 to the playoffs was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. The other two were the 1995 Detroit Lions and 1992 San Diego Chargers, the latter the only team in history to make the playoffs following a 0-4 start. None of those teams reached a Super Bowl. The Saints are now 18/1 at Bovada to win the Super Bowl, 9/1 to win the NFC and +130 favorites in the NFC South. So for the most part, the NFL odds show that sportsbooks still have faith.

New Orleans could easily be 2-0. In Week 1 at a good Atlanta team, the Saints led 20-7 at one point and took a 34-31 lead on a Mark Ingram touchdown with 1:20 remaining. However, Matt Ryan was able to get the Falcons into position for a Matt Bryant 51-yard field-goal try at the gun. He made it, then made a 52-yarder in overtime for the win. Last week, the Saints lost 26-24 in Cleveland on a Billy Cundiff 29-yard field goal with three seconds left. Cleveland started that game-winning drive on its own 4 with 2:43 left. So clearly the New Orleans defense has been a bit of a problem, and Coach Sean Payton and coordinator Rob Ryan were seen arguing on the sideline during that Browns game.

The Saints did get bad news last week when Ingram was lost for a month at least due to a hand injury. He led the team with 143 rushing yards and three touchdowns. They will use a mix of Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson to replace him.

Given that this game is at the Superdome should equal a Saints victory. New Orleans was unbeaten there in 2013 and Brees is a different guy there. For example, last year Brees completed 64 percent of his passes with 12 TDs, nine picks and a rating of 84.8 on the road. At home, he completed 73.6 percent with 27 TDs, three interceptions and a rating of 126.3. There may not be one guy in the NFL more suited to his home field than Brees.

 

Will Peterson Play?
Minnesota blew out the Rams in the opener and then was, not unexpectedly, blown out at home in Week 2 by New England. Of course everyone knows by now the Adrian Peterson situation. He was deactivated for that Patriots game in the wake of his child abuse charges for disciplining his son. The team reactivated him Monday and said he would play this week in what was a very awkward press conference. I'm not sure Peterson will. A report of a previous incident with another of Peterson's young sons came out Monday as well, although Peterson was legally cleared for that. The NFL now says the Peterson case is under review. Can the league really allow him to play? This is worse, really, than what Ray Rice did.

The Vikings rushed for just 54 yards without Peterson in the 30-7 loss to the Patriots, using a combination of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. The offense managed 217 yards against a Patriots defense that was torched in Week 1 in Miami. QB Matt Cassel completed only 19 of 36 passes for 202 yards with a TD and four picks vs. New England. Coach Mike Zimmer already had to address his status as the starter. Could we see rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater if Cassel stinks it up in the first half Sunday? Don't rule it out.

Also, the Vikings will get back special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for this game. He had been suspended two games by the team for anti-gay comments made during the 2012 season that came out during the Chris Kluwe mess. You might say having a special teams coordinator back doesn't matter, but the Vikings special teams were lousy vs. New England. The Pats' Chandler Jones blocked a field goal and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown with nine seconds left in the first half. Minnesota had just nine players on the field during a Patriots punt in the second half.

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NFL free picks: New Orleans -9.5 and 'over' 51 points. Some online sportsbooks have this game off the board because of the Peterson situation. Place your NFL picks now where you can because if he does sit, this will go up at least a few points. The Vikings are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game. The 'over' is 4-1 in Minnesota's past five on the road. The 'over' is 5-2 in the Saints' past seven after a loss.