San Diego Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

San Diego Chargers (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-4 SU, 1-3 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date/Time: Sunday, October 7th, 2012/8:20 p.m. EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
TV: NBC
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: SD +3.5/NO -3.5
Over/Under Total: 54

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The main story line has changed for NBC’s Sunday Night Football in America this week, but the action should still be captivating when the San Diego Chargers travel to the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints.

The original script called for a Philip Rivers vs. Drew Brees showdown of playoff-ready teams in primetime, but now everyone will be turning in to watch the fiery crash scene reality show that the Saints have unexpectedly become the stars of in 2012.

The Saints put up a good fight last Sunday, but they never recovered from a missed field goal with five minutes left and fell to 0-4 with narrow loss in Green Bay, 28-27. Brees was great (446 yards, 3 TD), but until the Saints defense gets the new scheme figured out it’s going to continue to be a long season in the Big Easy.

Rivers and the Chargers are the next team up to try and outscore Brees and the Saints, and considering they are coming off an impressive, 37-20, win on the road in Kansas City, the chances look good. Rivers and the Chargers had a 17 point lead before all of the Chiefs fans were in their seats last week (w/ 5:28 left in 1st Q), so another fast start on the road would certainly help to take the Superdome crowd out of it.

Despite all of their issues on and off the field, the Saints are still getting the customary home team treatment from oddsmakers, who installed the Saints as 3-point favorites to open. There are a bunch of offshore sportsbooks that have moved the number up the hook to minus -3.5, but so far the number seems to be holding firm.

The over/under total opened at 52 at a few sportsbooks, but within hours that number jumped up to 54, where it is currently sitting at most books and likely will sit until kickoff.

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On offense, it’s obvious why many are expecting a mid-50s total shootout.

Brees and the Saints are still loaded with weapons, and even though they miss the uncanny play-calling of coach Sean Peyton, they still put up 27.5 points per game (10th in NFL). A total abandonment of the run (81 ypg - 26th) isn’t helping Brees and the offense, but it’s a problem they might not be able to turn around this week either against the Chargers solid run defense (allow 80 ypg - 6th).

The Chargers offense hasn’t been great this week, but when you play against the Saints and their 32nd-ranked defense you’re expected to put numbers on the board. San Diego had more running plays (34) than Rivers had passing plays (23 attempts) last week in K.C., so a heavy dose of Ryan Mathews (now healthy) and Jackie Battle against the Saints 32nd-ranked run defense (187 ypg) is almost a certainty come Sunday Night.

Plus, historically it’s been offense that has dominated previous Chargers-Saints meetings. It’s been the set four years since these two last played, but the result was a, 37-32, shootout where both Rivers and Brees threw for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. Both LaDainian Tomlinson and Duece McAllister are both gone now, so a Rivers-vs.-Brees round two could be in the cards if the Chargers decide to play at the Saints pace.

Overall the Chargers have a slight 4-3 SU and 4-3 ATS edge over the years (since 1988), with a 2-1 SU and ATS edge in the three games played in the Superdome (2008, 1997, 1994).

All but one of the seven recent games have gone over the total, but the total has never been higher than 49.5 in any of the other games (5 of the 7 closed in the high 30s).

Something will have to give this week with regards to betting trends, since both teams have solid ATS numbers to provide an argument. San Diego has been solid on the road (4-1 ATS in L5), and New Orleans is faster on the Superdome carpet (9-2 ATS in L11 at home)

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’d like to think that the Saints defense will step up one of these weeks, just on the law of averages, but I’m starting to lose faith. The Chargers and Rivers are the perfect team to torch them again, just like Green Bay and Rodgers (just like RGIII, and Cam Newton). Not to mention, I believe Ryan Mathews will see 20+ carries in this game, resulting in a giant day on the ground. I’ll take San Diego plus the points against a terrible Saints defense.

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