No surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs are 0-2. But the New Orleans Saints? They’re a mess, and they’re still laying nine points to the Chiefs this Sunday afternoon at the Superdome. Find out where we have decided to place our NFL picks in this matchup.
Four teams are 0-2 SU and ATS as we head into Week 3, and who would have thought that the Saints are one of
the Frozen Four, alongside the Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee
Titans. Consternation and uproar! Who could have seen this coming? Smart NFL handicappers, that’s who.
It’s easy to say
this in retrospect, but the betting public really whiffed on the Saints by
dismissing the whole Bountygate affair with the wave of a casual hand. There
was New Orleans this summer, way up in the second tier of Super Bowl XLVII
favorites at +1500, tied with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. And
that was before the player suspensions were rescinded. Now the NFL odds makers have moved the Saints to +6000.
Did anyone take the non-player suspensions
seriously? I imagine head coach Sean Payton did. He had to cough up $5.8
million of this year’s $7.1 million salary and isn’t even allowed to have a cup
of coffee with anyone in the NFL. Yet the joke around the water cooler was that
Payton would simply run the Saints via a secret e-mail account.
It’s not that simple. True, Payton’s schemes are
already in place, and QB Drew Brees is more than capable of calling the plays.
But a ship never runs as smoothly when the captain isn’t on board. Or the first
mate – assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games,
leaving offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to run things on an “interim interim”
In terms of immediate impact, the biggest absence
on the Saints sideline is the man at the center of the Bountygate scandal,
former defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams. His departure in February to the
St. Louis Rams was pre-ordained; New Orleans was making the switch to former
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, a switch that should already have raised the red
flag for Saints supporters well before the scandal hit the front pages.
I’m a big fan of Spags, don’t get me wrong. He was
the defensive co-ordinator for the New York Giants when they dropped the hammer
on the record-setting New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLII. And just because
Spagnuolo didn’t succeed at the head-coaching level doesn’t mean he’s forgotten
how to run a defense (see: Mike Nolan, Atlanta Falcons).
The short-term problem is that Spags runs a 4-3
zone, while Williams prefers aggressive man-on-man. Very aggressive, as it
turns out. It takes time to swap out systems as different as these two. Not
just systems, mind you, but players as well. Three of those four no-longer-suspended
players aren’t on the field for the Saints: DT Anthony Hargrove (Packers), LB
Scott Fujita (Browns) and LB Jonathan Vilma (PUP list). Did I mention Vitt is
also the linebackers’ coach? Now I have.
Oh Yeah, the Chiefs
There is a second team playing in Sunday’s matchup
(1:00 p.m. ET, CBS), but few people outside of Tornado Alley care about the
Chiefs. This alone should make them a compelling value pick against the
publicly-adored Saints. Except the Chiefs are really, really bad at football
these days. They have the second-worst pass defense in the NFL after two weeks,
according to the efficiency numbers at Football Outsiders.
But guess who has the worst pass defense?
Correct-a-mundo. In a situation like this, with both teams struggling to beat
the spread, I’ll be taking the OVER in a heartbeat. And praise be, the total
has gone back down from 54.5 points to 53, right where the NFL odds makers opened it earlier in the week. Thank you, football