This game really almost has it all — strong offenses, marquee superstars, public interest, and a real potential for thrills and excitement. The only thing holding it back from being a classic is that neither team is reliably playing in particularly good form. Both are coming off pretty solid comeback efforts in their last time out — historically so in the case of the Broncos — but neither squad is nearly as reliable as it would like to be, and neither has nearly the record it expected at this point. I’m not complaining — I am looking forward to this one as much as the next guy. I just know it had the potential to be so much better, and I wish that it was. Call me greedy.
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One thing that really does make this game interesting is that neither team can afford to lose. The Chargers have a reasonably easy road game at Cleveland, so if the Broncos drop this one then they would lose the lead in the AFC West just a week after gaining the tie. The stakes are much, much higher for the Saints. The NFC is strong this year, but it is at least conceivable that a team at 3-4 could climb back into the wild card picture with a strong second half. A 2-5 team just isn’t getting there, though. Effectively, then, new interim coach Joe Vitt is making his debut in a one-game playoff for the Saints’ relevance. No pressure, Joe.
Saints at Broncos Betting Storylines
It has been a surprise so far this year just how much of an impact their bounty scandal and the aftermath has had on the team. Despite all the turmoil they were subjected to, most people expected them to be a serious NFC contender. So far, though, they really haven’t been.
Early in the year they were unfocused, underprepared and just plain underwhelming. Things have turned around slightly lately, but this still isn’t the team we had expected to see. Just when things were turning around, though, more upheaval is on the horizon. Joe Vitt begins his tenure as interim coach this week after serving his six-week suspension. Vitt is competent and well-liked, but the team will still face change, and if we have learned anything this year it’s that the Saints don’t embrace change as well as they might.
One of the biggest challenges of handicapping this game, then — and one entirely without precedent to draw on for insight — is that we have to figure out what this means for New Orleans. Will they be distracted and confused by the shift in message? Or will they enjoy a boost because the ‘real interim’ coach is back in charge? No one ever said handicapping the NFL was easy.
Neither of these teams has been particularly good at playing a whole game recently. Against the Patriots Denver fell into an early hole they never climbed out of. They needed a historic comeback against the Chargers after trailing 24-0 at the half. New Orleans was behind early against the Bucs, and they needed to score three times late to beat the Chargers. The teams have been reasonably effective at playing from behind, but that is far from a sustainable long-term approach. Given the two offenses here, it could be tough for either team to climb out of a hole they get into early, so a strong start is crucial.
One thing you can’t forget in this game — New Orleans’ defense is just plain lousy. They are 30th in total passing yards and 31st against the run, and they have allowed at least 24 points in every game they have played. The change in defensive coordinators coupled with the shuffle of defensive players and staff due to interim coaches and suspensions has had a massive effect. It’s hard to bet on the Saints against anyone — never mind someone as effective as Peyton Manning — until you can convince yourself that this defense can turn a corner and perform with at least a degree of adequacy.
The public loves offense and they love quarterbacks. This game, then, is heaven for public bettors. Despite the Saints’ woes they have the top passing attack in the league. Manning isn’t quite at his former glory, but he’s a lot closer than some expected. The public is going to be fired up about both guys, so watching the public action here will be more important than ever. When the public gets excited by big names they turn their brains off, so a perceived advantage in the passing game for one guy could have much more of an impact on the lines than it really should. Despite Manning’s second-half heroics last time out, it seems like Brees is getting the majority of the public love at this point.
Saints at Broncos NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Broncos favored by 6.5 points, and that has fallen to six points in recent action. That movement is consistent with the betting action — about 70 percent of bets have been on the Saints. The total opened at a reasonably high 54.5, and it has shown movement up to 55.5 in early action. With these two quarterbacks involved you can be sure the public will like the “over” at almost any level.
New Orleans has gone over the total in five of six games this year, while the Broncos have gone over in three of their last four. New Orleans has covered their last two road spreads, and they covered their only time as an underdog. Denver is 2-1 ATS at home this year, and 2-0 ATS as favorites.
Saints at Broncos Predictions and NFL Picks
I don’t like the potential for turmoil around the Saints, and I really don’t like their defense in this spot. Denver has had issues all year and certainly isn’t consistent. The combination of the huge boost of their last second half against San Diego and a week off to prepare for this one, though, should be enough to have them ready to go. If the line were over a touchdown it would be a much tougher decision, but I feel solid about giving up six points and taking the Broncos. The total leans to the over in my eyes, but the public involvement has drained it of most value.
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