New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Pick – Point Spread

New England Patriots (7-3 SU, 5-4-1 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (10-0
SU, 7-3 ATS), 8:30 p.m. EST, Week 12 NFL, Monday Night Football, November 30, 2009, Louisiana
Superdome, New Orleans, La., TV: ESPN

by Badger of

Point Spread: Patriots +3/Saints -3
Over/Under: 56

After a couple of weeks of having to watch losing teams in Monday Night
Football duds, this week ESPN gets to host an instant classic between the
reigning AFC darling New England Patriots with quarterback
Tom Brady and the undefeated New Orleans
who are suddenly the favorite in the NFC.

The AFCs best versus the NFCs best, in what ESPN is sure to cover
from 16 different angles, a potential Super Bowl matchup preview in

New England is arguably a 4th-down call by Bill Belichick away from beating the Colts and staying at the top of the AFC hierarchy in
everyones mind, and if you dont buy that argument than maybe the
way they bounced back after the controversy with a resounding 31-14
victory over the New York Jets last weekend is worthy of notice.

The Saints have been virtually unstoppable, even by themselves, as
they continue to roll along with a 38-7 victory over Tampa Bay last
Sunday. Theres no doubt that head coach Sean Peyton and quarterback
Drew Brees are ready to test their wits against the Brady-Belichick
combo that has been the standard of late, to see how good the Saints
really are this season.

All of this under the lights of Monday Night Football, finally.

And dont think for a second the sportsbooks in Las Vegas and offshore havent been waiting for this game. Theyve spent time on this game to get the number right and opened the game with the Saints
listed as the standard 3-point favorite at home. So far theyve
balanced the take since the point spread has yet to move in either

The over/under total opened at 56 for what oddsmakers expect to be a
shootout, but it has since moved the hook in either direction so you
can find the number now from 55.5 to 56.5 if youre shopping around
for half-points.

This game has all sorts of potential on offense.

Brees and the Saints are No. 1 in yards (420.6 ypg) and scoring (36.9
ppg). Brady and the Pats are No. 2 in yards (416.1 ypg) and No. 3 in
scoring (29 ppg). Both teams seem to have their running games healthy
and peaking right now. There is a reason why the oddsmakers opened
this game at 56.

So rather than bore you with more glowing offensive stats, lets move on to where the game will truly be won or lost defense.

The Patriots have turned over personnel and moved on with young
talent built through the draft to become the NFLs 6th best defense
overall (286.7 ypg) and the 2nd-best in scoring defense allowing just
16.4 points per game. If the Saints really try and achieve the
offensive balance they had last week versus the Bucs (183 rush-187
pass) by running the football more, they might be able to take
advantage of the Pats weak link versus the run (109.4 ypg 14th).

The Saints defense has turned heads, and also turned a lot of games
around, with all of their defensive touchdowns this season (7), but
the unit as a whole is average (330.6 ypg 17th) and is experiencing
injury issues in the secondary as the season comes down the homestretch.

The Saints lost corner Tracey Porter to a knee injury last week, so
they went out and signed former Saints corner Mike McKenzie off the
street to a free agent deal this week. The return of the other
starting corner, Jabari Greer, is likely by Monday (listed as
probable), but with safety Darren Sharper already playing dinged up
and McKenzie fresh off the couch, the Saints secondary could get
picked apart by Brady if he has time in the pocket. The Saints might
get tackle Sedrick Ellis back from injury this week too, which would
help keep Brady from having too much time in the pocket.

The history between these two teams is rare. New England won the last
time they met at home in Gillette Stadium in 2005, 24-17, to make it
three wins in a row in the heads-up series. The other two wins in the
streak coming in 2001 (a 34-17 NE win) and 1998 (a 30-27 NE win in
the only game versus the Pats in the Superdome since 1986).

Prior to that the Saints owned the series, winning three straight
from 1998 back through 1989.

More importantly for gamblers, the Saints have owned this series at
the window, covering the point spread in the last meeting and six of
the seven lifetime meetings between the two (6-1 ATS).

The over is 6-1 in the head-to-head series, including both games in
the Superdome, but theyve never had to chase a number like 56 for a
total. Their last meeting in 05 closed with a 48 total, the highest
total theyve had in the series, and ironically the only game that
has finished under in the series history.

Badgers Pick: The Saints should be ready for this game, but their
banged up secondary scares the pants off me with Brady on the other
sideline. The Pats are battled-tested too, whereas the Saints are
coming off of back-to-back games against the Rams and Bucs. I guess
what Im saying is, Ill take Brady on Monday Night plus points if
youre giving them to me. Take New England plus 3 points.