2018 New Orleans Saints Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Want proof that one draft class can alter the shape of your franchise - even if you didn't land a franchise quarterback in said class? I give you the 2017 New Orleans Saints.
Coach Sean Payton was considered on the hot seat entering last year with his team coming off three straight 7-9 seasons. Most expected more of the same, but the Saints' 2017 draft class was absolutely amazing - led by NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara (No. 67 overall pick from Tennessee) and Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 overall from Ohio State). Kamara combined with Mark Ingram to turn the Saints from the pass-happy group they had been forever under Brees to one of the top rushing teams in the NFL. Lattimore helped stabilize a defense that had been atrocious since the Super Bowl season. In addition, No. 32 overall pick Ryan Ramczyk was an immediate contributor on the offensive line and No. 42 pick Marcus Williams (safety) did the same in the secondary.
ESPN sister site FiveThirtyEight.com rated the Saints' 2017 NFL Draft class as the league's best since 2000, based on a per-player impact during his rookie season. Those Saints players did what the Dallas Cowboys' 2016 class of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott did for that franchise.
However, the Cowboys slipped some last year because Elliott was suspended six games. The Saints will be facing something similar with Ingram to miss the first four games of 2018 due to a drug suspension. There's no good time to get busted for PEDs, but Ingram was coming off the best season of his career and entering the final season of his contract. Ingram and Kamara made league history in 2017 by becoming the first backfield teammates to each surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Kamara is a great young player, but I'm not sure he's built to handle a full workload by himself. His high for carries last year was 12, and he even shared time while at Tennessee. The Saints do have a few more running backs on the roster, including drafting Louisiana Tech's Boston Scott in the sixth round this year.
New Orleans was 4-4 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Saints travel to three playoff teams in 2018: Division rivals Atlanta and Carolina as well as Minnesota. The home schedule is tougher with the Rams, Eagles and Steelers on it. I project the Saints to go 4-4 on the road again. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 23 at Falcons (-3): New Orleans should be 2-0 after hosting Tampa Bay (not a sure thing) and then Cleveland the first two weeks. The Saints have won five of their past eight in Atlanta and probably should have won there in Week 14 last year on a Thursday but lost 20-17 as Brees threw an interception in the Falcons end zone with 1:25 to go. Key trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Sept. 30 at Giants (+2.5): This will be the final game Ingram misses. Of course, the Giants have two natives of New Orleans in Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. New Orleans lost at the Giants in the last meeting early in the 2016 season, 16-13. Key trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 at Giants.
Oct. 21 at Ravens (pick'em): Saints off their bye week. My guess is this will be the game where Brees breaks Peyton Manning's career passing yardage record. Interestingly, Brees has failed to beat just one team in his Hall of Fame career. He's 0-4 vs. the Ravens and this almost surely will be his last chance against them. Key trend: Saints 8-2 ATS in past 10 after bye (any location).
Oct. 28 at Vikings (-4): Sunday night matchup. Of course, a rematch of the NFC Divisional Round game in Minneapolis, which the Saints lost on a miracle. As good as Williams was as a rookie, he'll always be remembered for whiffing on a tackle that allowed Stefon Diggs to score the most unlikely touchdown in playoff history. Key trend: Saints 5-5 ATS in past 10 at Vikings.
Nov. 11 at Bengals (+3): This screams letdown game for the Saints off a huge home matchup Week 9 vs. the Rams and ahead of another huge home game Week 11 vs. the Eagles. The Saints have lost four of the past five matchups in this series but did win last time in Cincinnati in 2010. Key trend: Saints 3-5 ATS at AFC North foes.
Nov. 29 at Cowboys (-1.5): Thursday night. New Orleans won't be on extra rest here because it plays the previous Thursday (Thanksgiving). The Saints have won four of the past five in this series, last 26-20 on Oct. 4, 2015, in the Big Easy. Key trend: Saints 4-4 ATS in Dallas.
Dec. 9 at Bucs (+3): Good time of year to visit Tampa as it shouldn't be hot or humid. New Orleans has dropped its past two there, though, including 31-24 in Week 17 last year. That could have cost the Saints the NFC South title, but Carolina also lost that day. Key trend: Saints 4-6 ATS in past 10 as road favorite in series.
Dec. 17 at Panthers (-1): Monday night. Also will be the first of two games between the two in 13 days as the Saints close the season on Dec. 30 at home vs. Carolina. New Orleans won all three meetings last year (playoffs). The one in Charlotte was 34-13 in Week 3. The Saints looked lost entering that game at 0-2 after being routed twice. Brees threw for three touchdowns and the defense had three picks and four sacks. Key trend: Saints 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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