NFL Handicapping: Sean Payton's Suspension Has Big Impact On Saints Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 4/23/2012
The NFL offseason is never boring. Thanks to the New Orleans Saints and their bounty scandal, though, this one has been particularly interesting and we’re not even at the NFL Draft yet. For bettors the Saints’ situation is an interesting one, and one that could potentially cause more than a few headaches.
I’ll assume you know the situation by now, so I’ll only touch on the basics. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was offering bounties to defensive players for hurting opponents. He has been suspended indefinitely, but he had already left for the Rams. There was no shortage of other suspensions. Head coach Sean Payton is gone for the whole season and the offseason. GM Mickey Loomis got eight games starting with the end of the preseason. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt got six games. There will be several players punished in time as well.
So what does this all means for NFL betting surround the New Orleans Saints? Let’s take a look at five different factors that will have an impact on how we bet this team this season:
Who Replaces The Replacement?
This is probably the strangest part of what has become a very strange and complicated situation. Assistant head coach and linebacker coach Joe Vitt has been named the interim head coach for the year that Payton will be unavailable. By all accounts he is the obvious choice within the team. He’s a leader within the Saints’ organization, and has been a head coach for 11 games as an interim in St. Louis when Mike Martz had his heart issues. He also took over many of the responsibilities last year when Payton broke his leg.
It sounds like a perfect solution. Except for one issue: Vitt has also been suspended for six games because of his involvement in this scandal. He was responsible for monitoring Williams and obviously didn’t exactly succeed in doing so. His suspension isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Payton’s though; Vitt will be able to lead the team in the offseason and through the preseason. He’ll then step aside for the first six games of the regular season before assuming the helm again the rest of the way. When he is gone interim-interim coach, and offensive line boss, Aaron Kromer will replace him.
You have to give the Saints some credit here – they wouldn’t have made this strange arrangement if they didn’t think it was the best option. Still, you have to wonder how the team will respond to this unprecedented situation, and if the inconsistency in leadership is going to have a negative impact. More accurately, I think, we know it will have a negative impact, but we have to determine how negative it will be.
Will The Players Respect For Interim(s)?
Regardless of sport, the list of teams that have floundered under an interim coach is longer than the list of teams that have thrived under one. This situation is different than most because it occurs from the start of the season and because the team has had a long time to get prepared for it. Most interim situations happen after a firing or health issue so the transition is more sudden and not typically very positive. Still, you have to wonder how much the team will respect a coach that they know won’t be around next year, especially if things get rough. And you really have to question how much they will respect Kromer when they know his time is so limited and that he’s effectively just a place-keeper. They are talking the right talk right now and you can’t question the sincerity of that. But if things start to go wrong, though, they could really go wrong.
We don’t yet know the full scope of the absences the team will suffer defensively but we know that they will be significant. For a team that didn’t exactly have a long history of defensive excellence in the first place, and which is facing a change in coordinator as well, the loss of key personnel is going to be very significant.
An Unhappy QB
The bounty scandal has overshadowed another big story in New Orleans. Drew Brees has not yet gotten the contract he thinks he deserves (and he’s right in thinking that) and he is taking offseason action as a result. Brees, simply put, is the Saints. In a crisis like this team faces they absolutely need to have a leader that they can rally around — someone who can focus them on their task at hand. Brees is that guy. If he’s not happy, though, or if things really get crazy and he’s holding out, then a bad situation would get much, much worse.
Uncertain Public Sentiment
The hardest factor to come to terms with in this situation is how the public is going to respond to the whole situation. Public sentiment is often fairly easy to deduce, but here it’s less certain. On one hand the response to the whole bounty situation has been justifiably very negative, and that negativity is likely to linger into the season and beyond.
On the other hand, though, there are a lot of reasons the public could forgive them. The Saints are a fairly public team and the public doesn’t like Roger Goodell too much. Therefore many will see the punishment as too severe and there will be an underdog element for the team to build on with early success, and so on. In any situation it is crucial for sports bettors to try to understand how the public is responding and what impact that has on how lines are set and how they move. That will be even more important in this situation, especially early on before we have a lot of on-field information to rely on.
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