New Orleans Saints Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 7/17/2014
I honestly the believe the Saints would have multiple Super Bowl titles, instead of just the one after the 2009 season, if they could play every game indoors like an NBA team. That's basically what the Saints of Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are: a track meet NBA team, at least offensively. No team is better suited for its home field in the NFL. There's a reason the Saints never lose in the Superdome.
Alas, the Saints weren't able to land a top-two seed in last year's NFC playoffs, finishing with an 11-5 record and second in the NFC South to Carolina. Two games ruined New Orleans' chances of home-field advantage throughout: a 34-7 Week 13 defeat in Seattle, arguably the team's worst overall performance ever under Payton, and a 17-13 Week 16 loss in Carolina. It's not a coincidence that all five Saints losses were in non-dome stadiums. New Orleans finished as one of the best sixth seeds ever and pulled a pretty big 26-24 wild-card round upset at Philadelphia -- an upset considering the Saints had never won a road playoff game and it was very wintry-like conditions, something Brees usually doesn't fare well in. Alas, that win got the Saints another trip to Seattle. New Orleans played much better than the Week 13 loss but never was a threat to win, falling 23-15. It was the fourth straight season under Payton (not counting his suspended year) the Saints won at least 11 games. But the team hasn't gotten past the divisional round since that Super Bowl.
Same year, same story. The Saints were among the total offense (fourth) and scoring leaders (10th), because of Brees, and one of the NFL's top passing units. However, the team again didn't offer much with the running game, ranking 25th at 92.1 ypg. I don't expect anything to change in that regard as the Saints bring back both top running backs in Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. I think you'd have to call the former Heisman winner a bust so far, but Ingram did average a career-best 4.9 yards per carry in 2013. He only got 78 of them, however, partly because of injury problems. This could be his final season in New Orleans unless Ingram shows something.
Brees had his third straight 5,000-yard season last year, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. No reason those numbers won't be repeated. He's got the best tight end in football, Jimmy Graham. The Saints avoided a major headache and possible holdout into the regular season by signing Graham to a four-year, $40 million deal this week with $21 million guaranteed. That makes him the highest-paid tight end in history, which he should be. Graham took the Saints to an arbitrator, arguing that he should be paid like a receiver. The Saints won there, but the sides largely met in the middle. Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and an NFL-leading 16 touchdowns.
Brees will miss departed running back Darren Sproles, traded to Philadelphia, in the passing game, but I am a huge fan of the team's 2014 first-round pick, receiver Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. He broke Pac-12 records with 128 receptions for 1,730 yards last season and is a total burner. His 4.33-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was the second-fastest of all the players in attendance.
I'm not sure how Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't get hired for a head coaching gig this offseason because he worked a miracle in 2013. New Orleans set an NFL record in total yards allowed in 2012 (7,042 or 440.1 per game) under former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Last year it allowed 4,891, or 305.7 per game, fourth in the NFL. The difference between the two seasons is the most drastic turnaround since the merger in 1970. The Saints also improved greatly in points allowed as New Orleans gave up an average of 19 points per game in 2013, compared to 28.4 points per game in 2012. New Orleans allowed 17 points or less in 11 of its regular-season games in 2013, going 10-1.
New Orleans said goodbye to cornerback Jabari Greer and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper in free agency but somehow found the money for perhaps the best safety on the market, Buffalo's Jairus Byrd, to a $54 million deal (part of reason team had to trade Sproles). Byrd is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He sat out the first five games of last season due to foot soreness and finished with 48 tackles and four interceptions. The Saints are clearly trying to mimic the Seahawks in getting two stud safeties and appear to have it with Byrd and emerging second-year player Kenny Vaccaro. The Saints now have zero defensive players remaining from their 2009 Super Bowl team.
2014 New Orleans Saints Schedule Analysis
The Saints are tied for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 119-135-2 last season, a winning percentage of .469. It's the easiest schedule in the NFC South. The Saints' home slate (.508) appears much tougher than on the road (.430), and that's probably just fine by New Orleans with how good it is in the Superdome and iffy in outdoor games. New Orleans is a 1-point dog for Week 1 in Atlanta, with a total of 52 that's the tied for the second-highest on the board (behind Colts-Broncos). The Saints swept the Falcons last year, both close. The meeting at the Georgia Dome was Week 12, a Thursday night, and the Saints won 17-13 as 7.5-point favorites. Brees threw for 278 yards and two scores with no picks. Graham caught five of those for 100 yards and a 44-yard second-quarter scores. There were only three points scored in the second half, a Garrett Hartley 41-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the third.
This is a decent schedule because the Saints don't have to face Super Bowl favorites like the Seahawks, Broncos or Patriots and pretty much all the tough games are at home. If the Saints win in Atlanta, and I expect the Falcons to be good again, they could get to 7-0. After Week 1, the schedule is: at Browns, vs. Vikings, at Cowboys (who Saints destroyed last year), vs. Bucs, bye week, at Lions, vs. Packers. New Orleans should be favored in all of those. Then Week 9 it's a short turnaround in Carolina, which is where the schedule gets much harder. This follows: vs. 49ers, vs. Bengals, vs. Ravens, at Steelers, vs. Panthers, at Bears. Thus, just one game at a playoff team from last year overall, the Panthers. The Saints close at home against the Falcons in Week 16 and at the Bucs in the finale. There look to be two outdoor cold weather games: Pittsburgh and Chicago. Only consecutive road games once, and that's the first two weeks. Not bad.
2014 New Orleans Saints Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Saints are +1700 to win the Super Bowl, +800 to win the NFC championship and -105 favorites to win the NFC South. The Saints have a wins total set at 9.5 with the second-shortest over odds of any team at -210. Rather amazingly, the Raiders have the shortest, but that's over only 4.5. New Orleans is -140 to make the playoffs and +110 to miss out. Brees is +800 to win NFL MVP and +400 to lead the league in passing yards. Ingram and Thomas are each +15000 to top the NFL in rushing yards. Marques Colston is +7500 to lead the NFL in receiving yards and Graham is +6000. Cooks is +1000 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
2014 New Orleans Saints Picks and Predictions
If you believe Archie Manning, this is going to be a great year in the Big Easy. The most beloved Saint ever -- I still think that's true but won't be once Brees is done with his career -- recently told the Baton Rouge newspaper that this might be the best Saints team he has ever seen on paper. He might be right. The Saints have been very good offensively since Brees and Payton teamed up there, but the defense is at a new level under Ryan.
To win the Super Bowl, this team absolutely must get the top seed in the NFC, or at least the No. 2 and hope that a Seattle or San Francisco or Green Bay or Chicago loses in the divisional round if it is the top seed. I don't seeing the Saints winning an outdoor playoff game in those places even after what they did last season in Philly. Should New Orleans run the table at home, it can get to 12-13 wins. I can't quite give the Saints the NFC yet, but they will go over 9.5 wins and win the NFC South. I think Brees will win the MVP -- Peyton Manning's numbers simply have to dip this year and there's Manning fatigue with that award and somehow Brees hasn't won it yet -- but finish No. 2 to Matthew Stafford in passing yards. Cooks is probably my second-favorite for OROY behind Titans running back Bishop Sankey.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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