And we thought Sean Payton wanted to win these games. Payton's New Orleans Saints haven't beaten the NFL odds this preseason, and the pesky Houston Texans are up next.
Like they say, past performance does not guarantee future results. Here at the home office, we've been using the head coaches' preseason records to help us with our NFL picks, like good little soldiers. Unfortunately, Sean Payton hasn't been complying. He was 19-12-2 ATS in exhibition play coming into 2015, but Payton's New Orleans Saints have dropped both their games SU and ATS. Lame.
No such problems with Bill O'Brien and the Houston Texans – they're 3-3 SU and ATS under their new-ish head coach, after splitting their first two preseason games. Should we jump ship on New Orleans? At press time, the Texans are available at NFL odds of +3.5 for Sunday's matinee (4:00 p.m. ET, FOX) at the Superdome. That extra half-point above the field-goal difference is always tempting.
Legion of Whom
Let's not throw Payton out with the bathwater just yet. The Saints have had to play without the entire starting secondary from their base 4-3 defense: LC Keenan Lewis, SS Kenny Vaccaro, FS Jairus Byrd and RC Brandon Browner. They were also without nickel corner Delvin Breaux in last week's 26-24 loss to the New England Patriots (+2.5 away). Lewis, Vaccaro and Breaux returned to practice on Sunday; Browner and Byrd might have to wait until the regular season.
The Saints can also take solace in the performance of their starters against New England. They took a 21-0 lead deep into the second quarter before things began falling apart. This being Week 3 of the preseason, we can expect to see more of the starting unit on Sunday; Payton is 8-1 SU and ATS in Week 3, his only loss coming during his rookie campaign in 2006.
That's a Clowney Question, Bro
Aside from RB Arian Foster and his surgically-repaired groin, things have gone pretty well for Houston on the injury front. All eyes are on last year's No. 1 overall pick, DE Jadeveon Clowney, who's trying to come back from microfracture surgery on his right knee. Clowney was back at practice for the first time last week, but there's no indication he'll be ready for Sunday.
Meanwhile, O'Brien has officially chosen Brian Hoyer as his starting quarterback, which is little surprise given his other options (Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage). Hoyer had some good moments last year with the Cleveland Browns, but he finished at No. 26 on the passing DVOA charts at Football Outsiders, well behind former Texans starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at No. 13 overall.
We're inclined to fade Houston in general this year. People refused to give Fitzpatrick his just due when he led the Texans to a 6-5 SU and 7-4 ATS record before breaking his leg. Until he proves otherwise, Hoyer is at least a small step down from Fitzpatrick in talent. He might be a good late-round draft pick for your fantasy team, though.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Saints –3 (–125) at BetOnline