Tattoo artist in Provo, Utah. Tuna fisherman in Wichita, Kansas. Financial analyst for death-row inmates. Public relations manager for Ray Rice. All of these professions offer an easier way to make a living right now than betting NFL favorites.
Through the season’s first two weeks, chalk-eaters have collected in just 12 of 32 games. Even more shocking, more than 40 percent of those 32 games have ended with outright upsets by the underdog (seven in Week 1; six in Week 2).
So guess who tabbed the NFL’s biggest favorite as his Week 2 best bet? (Gee, thanks for jumping offside and nullifying that late fourth-quarter, spread-covering pick-six, Broncos!) And guess who is now backing the second-biggest favorite for his Week 3 best bet? Not just the second-biggest favorite, either, but a team that’s 0-2, ranks next-to-last in points allowed and just lost to the Cleveland Browns! (Actually, the lobotomy scar is healing quite nicely, thank you.)
Believe it or not, my decision to lay 9½ points with the winless Saints against the Vikings has nothing at all to do with any hunch that favorites are “due” to start covering. Fact is, we very well could be headed for one of those years in which oddsmakers struggle all season to properly adjust power ratings.
Nope, I actually have sound logic for digesting heavy chalk with New Orleans in this spot, and it starts with this: The only thing more predictable than the Saints winning big at home is Justin Bieber doing something douchebaggy in the next five minutes. Including two preseason contests, New Orleans went 10-0 straight-up and 9-1 against the spread in the Superdome last season. That includes regular-season victories by margins of 25, 18, 32, 18, 21 and 24 points.
Throw out the 2012 season (when coach Sean Payton spent the year in timeout for his role in Bountygate) and the meaningless 2010 regular-season finale (when the starters were pulled early), and the Saints have won 20 consecutive regular-season and postseason home games, going an astounding 19-1 ATS. Number of double-digit wins in that 20-game stretch: 17. Average margin of victory: 19 points.
But wait, there’s more! Including the Saints’ two last-second losses to start this season (37-34 at Atlanta; 26-24 at Cleveland), the home team is 17-3 SU and 18-2 ATS in the last 20 regular-season games Payton has been on the New Orleans sideline.
What about that defense that’s surrendered 63 points in two contests? Two words: Matt Cassel. The Vikings’ quarterback has a passer rating of 65.7; that ranks 34th among 35 qualifying QBs. (Frankly, I trust a shirtless Biebs with the pigskin in his hands right now more than I do Cassel.) What about Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota’s backfield? I’ll believe it when I see it; I certainly wouldn’t rule out an NFL-mandated suspension before kickoff. And anyway, the Saints are doing fine against the run. They’re just god-awful against the pass. Again: Matt Cassel.
True, Minnesota’s defense has been very good so far. Then again, in Week 1, it faced the Shaun Hill/Austin Davis pupu platter in St. Louis; in Week 2, it faced the artist formerly known as Tom Brady. (I don’t want to say the Golden Boy is done, but he sports a 78.9 QB rating; he’s completing just 56.4 percent of his throws; and his 5.1 yards per pass attempt—a vital stat—is the worst in the league.) This week, the Vikings’ D gets an angry Drew Brees and his fleet of weapons on a fast track indoors where, to repeat, New Orleans always wins … big.
Oh, and while the Saints have allowed the second-most points in the league, they’ve also scored the second-most points in the league—and they haven’t even set foot in the Superdome.
Last Week: 5-2 (2-2 NFL;
3-0 College; 0-1 Best Bet).
Season Record: 8-6 (3-5 NFL;
5-1 college; 0-2 Best Bets).
Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Fridays on “First Preview” on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 98.9-FM.