Things haven't gone their way recently, but the New Orleans Saints are going to be a popular NFL pick this Sunday against the wayward Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 16: 4-3 ATS; 2-2 Total
We're about to find out just how popular the New Orleans Saints still are. Their fans had high hopes for 2015 after missing the playoffs last year, but things got off to a rocky start in Week 1, as the Saints got spanked 31-19 by the Arizona Cardinals (–2 at home). No shame in that – the Cardinals have been outstanding during the two short years of the Bruce Arians-Carson Palmer Era.
Losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? That would be shameful. New Orleans has a date with the worst team in the NFL this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX), and we expect the Saints to be incredibly popular with the betting public as 10-point home faves. That's part of the reason why we've recommended putting the Bucs in your Week 2 NFL picks – but not until closer to kick-off.
I'm a Quarterback, I'm Popular
This NFC South matchup figures to be your typical “sharps vs. squares” encounter. The early action has been on Tampa Bay; according to our expanded consensus reports at press time, the Buccaneers are supported by nearly 54 percent of bettors, with over 74 percent of the monies wagered. The average bet size on the Bucs is $92, compared to just $37 for the Saints. The smaller the bet size, the more likely it belongs to a recreational bettor. Our surveys also show two $1000+ bets for Tampa Bay, and none for New Orleans.
That's the kind of data we'd expect for a game like this. The Saints may be a bit off-kilter, but they've still got Drew Brees at quarterback, and it was only six years ago that they won the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers finished last in 2014, getting embarrassed on a regular basis, and they did it again in last week's 42-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans (+3 away). Recreational bettors tend to overload on big favorites without giving it much thought.
They also tend to wait until the weekend before opening up their wallets and/or purses. We definitely saw some late action on the Saints in Week 1; they were +2.5 when we checked in on them Saturday afternoon before moving to +2 NFL odds by game time. A similar move this week would put even more chalk on New Orleans, so if you wait for Sunday's kick-off, there's a very good chance you can get the Buccaneers at +10.5 instead of +10.
The Saints are one of five popular franchises we identified as potential fade candidates based purely on this dynamic. The others: New England, Indianapolis, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh. Of these five teams, only the Saints and Steelers have had any difficulty overcoming the extra chalk in recent years. We recommend keeping an eye on Sunday's San Francisco-Pittsburgh game (1:00 p.m. FOX), where Pittsburgh is laying six points as we go to press. It could be –7 by kick-off, and hey, the Niners won last week. Strange things are happening.