Monday Night Football Picks: Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints
Per usual, there are two Monday night games in Week 1, and it was a pretty easy choice to decide to preview Houston at New Orleans in the early game over Denver at Oakland in the late one. The Texans and Saints were both division winners last year, while the Broncos and Raiders combined for a 10-22 mark in 2018 and probably won't be any better this year.
We could easily see a Texans-Saints matchup in Super Bowl LIV come February in Miami. Just about every major expert I've read has the Saints winning the NFC. Of course, New Orleans has taken a shocking gut-punch in the past two postseasons, losing in the Divisional Round following the 2017 season on the Minneapolis Miracle and then last year at home in the NFC title game to the Rams thanks to the worst missed pass interference call in NFL history. I believe the Saints would have beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl and that Drew Brees might have hung up his cleats.
Houston, meanwhile, lost to Andrew Luck and the Colts in last year's Wild-Card Round. I would argue no team has benefitted more from Luck's retirement than the Texans. Just look at the four starting quarterbacks in Houston's AFC South: Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett and Nick Foles. One is not like the others - i.e. Watson is easily the best of the bunch.
At 5Dimes, Houston is the +165 favorite to win the AFC South again, +1500 for the AFC title and +4000 to win the Super Bowl. Those latter odds seem awfully high. The Saints are -140 to win the NFC South, +525 for the NFC title and +1075 to win the Super Bowl. A Saints-Texans Super Bowl matchup is +11400.
Texans at Saints Betting Story Lines
Houston was quite busy over the weekend and probably got better by trading former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle while landing offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills from Miami for a boatload of draft picks - Houston gave up more to get Tunsil and Stills than Chicago did last year for Khalil Mack, though. However, the offensive line was a glaring problem after allowing a league-worst 62 sacks in 2018. Those were the most allowed by any playoff team since the 1999 Detroit Lions. Watson simply wasn't going to make it through another season healthy taking that type of beating. Stills, meanwhile, slots in as the club's third receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins and talented but injury-prone Will Fuller.
Clowney likely was going to hold out into the regular season. And while he's a good player, he also has had trouble staying on the field. Better to get that issue resolved before the season, but it was a good move for Seattle to considering the Texans are paying nearly half his salary this year. They had little leverage with Clowney opting not to sign the franchise tag and essentially able to veto any trade. Houston lost top running back Lamar Miller to a season-ending torn ACL but might be OK there with trade acquisitions Duke Johnson (Cleveland) and Carlos Hyde (Kansas City).
New Orleans is largely the same team that finished 13-3 last year. Running back Mark Ingram left in free agency for Baltimore, but if that means more of Alvin Kamara, well, that's not a bad thing. Plus, the Saints added former Vikings tailback Latavius Murray in free agency. They also made a trade on Sunday, landing linebacker Kiko Alonso from those tanking Dolphins. Alonso started all 46 games he played in Miami, leading the team in tackles in two of his three seasons. Coach Sean Payton said the Saints expect starting middle linebacker Alex Anzalone to be ready for Week 1 after dealing with an unspecified injury through much of the preseason.
Texans at Saints Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, New Orleans is a 7.5-point favorite (+110) with a total of 53. On the moneyline, the Saints are -300 and Texans +250. On some alternate lines, New Orleans is -7 (-110), -6.5 (-130), -10 (+150) and -10.5 (+160). The Texans were 5-3 against the spread on the road last season and 4-4 "over/under." The Saints were 4-4 ATS at home and 5-3 O/U.
Houston is 3-10 ATS in its past 13 Monday games. New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its past five on MNF. It's 0-5 ATS in its past five overall. The under is 8-3-1 in the Texans' past 12 in September. It's 7-2 in the Saints' past nine. The favorite has covered all four in this series.
Texans at Saints Betting Prediction
Just the four regular-season meetings between the teams and they have split them both ATS and straight up. Last one was Nov. 29, 2015, with Houston prevailing 24-6 at home. Watson was still at Clemson then. Brian Hoyer threw for 205 yards and two scores. New Orleans had only 268 yards. Brees threw for 228 and a pick.
I expect the Saints to win by a touchdown, so I'll take the 7.5 points. Final score of 27-20 so go "under" that total.
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