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October 22, 2014

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Week 5 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Saints party heads North

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates a sack in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.

The Saints are back to winning, the Superdome is back to rocking and the tickets are back to cashing.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 5

Who would you take in the pick’em game between New Orleans and Chicago?
Saints — 70.1%
Bears — 29.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

New Orleans took a one-year hiatus from its standing as an NFL powerhouse and public betting favorite in Las Vegas last season. The Bountygate scandal and coach Sean Payton’s one-year suspension spooked gamblers, and the ensuing 0-4 straight up, 1-3 against-the-spread start scared them off altogether.

Exactly one year later, the Saints have flipped into an eerily opposite position. They’re 4-0 straight-up, covering in all but one game, and getting bet as freely as beads are tossed at Mardi Gras.

The next stop in Payton and Friends’ redemption tour comes at 10 Sunday morning local time in Chicago, when the Saints take on the Bears (3-1 straight up, 2-2 against the spread) at Soldier Field. Most sports books had the Bears as a short favorite Monday morning and afternoon until realizing that wouldn’t work.

It’s a pick’em game in Las Vegas, and the Sun’s sports staff has obliged. All three contestants used one of their six weekly picks, found at the bottom of the page, on New Orleans at Chicago.

Although the Saints have rolled all season, their unofficial gambling welcome-back party came on Monday Night Football against the Dolphins this week. Drew Brees guided the offense to 465 yards of production in a 38-17 massacre as 7-point favorites.

The vast majority of action was on New Orleans, handing sports books a sizable loss in a season where the money has flowed the other way at an evilly high clip.

Fears of the fabled short-week syndrome haven’t stopped Saints support. Many gamblers abide by the theory that a team won’t play as well a week after appearing on Monday Night Football.

Coaches, at least in recent years, must have discovered some type of voodoo to help their teams overcome having one less day of preparation. Several studies from the past decade show no drop-off in the next game.

Over the past three seasons, teams coming off of Monday Night Football are actually 34-32-2 against the spread. Another reason some might be choosing to ignore the concern is the comfort with Payton, who’s gone 59-47 against the spread at the helm, including 28-25 on the road.

But Payton, an offensive mastermind, might not be the one most deserving of credit for the Saints’ resurrection. New Orleans led the league at 6.2 yards per play last season and has kept the figure high at 6.1 with Payton back on the sidelines.

It’s the defense, under new coordinator Rob Ryan, that’s seen a dramatic improvement as the Saints have gone from allowing an NFL-worst 6.5 yards per play a year ago to a respectable, nearly average 5.4 mark in 2013.

New Orleans’ defense ranks an astounding sixth in Football Outsiders’ all-encompassing DVOA ratings, including third against the pass, a year after setting a record by allowing 440 yards per game.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro, a first-round pick out of Texas, is an early front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year with the team’s second-most tackles and an interception. The secondary’s other new addition, former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis, has also transitioned nicely to his new franchise.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan, a first-round pick out of California in 2011, is experiencing a breakout year with four sacks to put him halfway to his career-high only a quarter into the season.

The competition level leaves one potential reason for pause. The last three quarterbacks the Saints have faced were Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill, which says plenty.

They’ll find a bigger challenge in the Bears offense, and not just because of quarterback Jay Cutler. Much like the Saints on defense, the Bears have made positive strides on offense.

They’ve gone from averaging 5 yards per play a season ago to 5.6 in the early returns from first-year coach Marc Trestman’s new system. The Bears rate 19th in offensive DVOA, which is not enthralling but an increase from 26th in 2012.

Payton is winless in Chicago, where the Bears have beaten the Saints in the last three meetings, including two as an underdog.

Check below to find the Sun’s picks on the game and all the others.

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 12-10-2 (3-2-1 last week)

Chiefs minus-3 at Titans

Bears pick’em vs. Saints

Patriots plus-1.5 at Bengals

Colts plus-3 vs. Seahawks

Eagles vs. Giants under 54.5

Jets plus-10 at Falcons

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 11-13 (3-3 last week)

Seahawks minus-3 at Colts

Ravens plus-3 at Dolphins

Titans plus-3 vs. Chiefs

Saints pick’em at Bears

Giants minus-2 vs. Eagles

Raiders plus-4 vs. Chargers

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 10-14 (2-4 last week)

Bears pick’em vs. Saints

Ravens plus-3 at Dolphins

Packers minus-7 vs. Lions

Patriots vs. Bengals over 45

Cowboys plus-7.5 vs. Broncos

Texans plus-7 at 49ers

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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