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Sunday’s pro football finale has made gamblers work this season, with the first four matchups all very competitive. Even though the home team has won all four of the matchups on SNF this season, the visitor has certainly had chances except for Detroit’s setback at San Francisco in Week 2 and that was only an eight-point (19-27) margin. Against the spread, the home team has gone 3-1 and some bettors may’ve received a push in last week’s 19-17 victory by the Eagles (-1.5) over the Eagles.
So is this the week that gamblers can shut the television off at halftime and will they have to work for another 3-plus hours? You can argue both ways, but let’s look at the matchup.
“The Big Easy” will host this week’s battle as New Orleans (0-4 SU, 1-3 ATS) welcomes San Diego (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) to the Superdome. Despite the winless record, the Saints opened as three-point home favorites and most shops have pushed the number up to 3 ½ as of Sunday morning. Bettors afraid to lay the hook can take a shot at New Orleans minus-190 (Bet $190 to win $100) on the money-line.
Even though the club hasn’t secured a victory, New Orleans hasn’t been a doormat. Its first two losses came by eight points and the last two by three or less. Last week, the Saints fell to the Packers 28-27 in a game they arguably and probably should’ve won. New Orleans outgained the Packers 474-421 in total yards but was hampered with 10 penalties for 72 yards. Quarterback Drew Brees completed 35-of-54 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s loss, which was his best effort on the season. Surprisingly, he’s played better in the two road games than the two home contests this season. In losses to the Redskins (32-40) and Chiefs (24-27), he completed less than 55 percent of his passes and was picked off three times.
Most would expect Brees to get better at home but can the Saints defense? The unit is ranked last in total yards (463) and 29th in points allowed (32.5). They’ve only forced six turnovers (2 INTs) and have managed just six sacks in six games. Part of the blame could be pointed to new Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo but you can’t dismiss the injury bug either. This week, the team is expected to miss linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) are ‘doubtful’ to play on Sunday. Also, LB Jonathan Casillas (neck) and veteran safety Roman Harper (hip) are ‘questionable’ for the game as well.
All those injury headlines will certainly make San Diego happy, especially quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers have been a bit of a bully this season, beating up on weaker teams and losing to quality clubs. San Diego has victories against Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City, who are all 1-3. The loss, a double-digit blowout (3-27) at home, came against Atlanta (4-0).
With the Saints being 0-4, should we expect another victory for San Diego? A lot of handicappers faded the Chargers last week after they were humbled at home to the Falcons. The Bolts forced six turnovers and cruised past the Chiefs 37-20 in wire-to-wire fashion. Rivers tossed two touchdowns in the road win but the offense didn’t have to do much as they were set up with short tracks all day. Running back Ryan Matthews put up 64 yards, which is a good sign for the injury prone player.
Defensively, San Diego is only allowing 316 YPG and 17.8 PPG. However, the Chargers’ strength is stopping the run (79.3 YPG), which is something New Orleans doesn’t like to do. Against the pass, the Chargers are suspect (237 YPG) and the secondary is also banged up too. They only have three defensive backs that are healthy and they just signed Chris Carr to the squad. CB Quentin Jammer (hand) is ‘probable’ but CB Shareece Wright (ankle) is expected to miss. Despite the banged up corners, San Diego still has a pair of legit safety combo of Eric Weddle and Atari Bigby.
San Diego is listed as a plus-165 underdog (Bet $100 to win $165) on the money-line.
The total opened at 52 ½ points and has held steady throughout the week. The Chargers have watched their totals go 2-2 while the Saints have leaned to the ‘over’ (3-1) this season. Trends are leaning towards a shootout as well. The over is 33-14-4 in San Diego's past 51 road games overall. For the Saints, the over is 8-1 in their past nine games, and 4-1 in their past five games in the Dome
On SNF, the ‘over/under’ stands at 2-2 on the season and all of the numbers have been close except for last week’s Giants-Eagles matchup. Even then, a couple late touchdowns instead of field goals makes that number get interesting as well.
As always, NBC will provide national coverage at 8:20 p.m. ET.
Chris David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org