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November 20, 2019

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Week 8 NFL picks and game of the week for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Highest over/under of the season posted for Sunday Night Football

Brees sacked

ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is hit by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) and defensive end Darryl Tapp (52) as he passes the ball during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014.

When NBC landed Green Bay at New Orleans as its midyear Sunday Night Football matchup before the season, no one at the network likely envisioned the game being between two second-place teams in their divisions.

Week 8: Packers at Saints

What's your pick in the Sun's handicapping game of the week? (Majority Poll Opinion this season: 4-4)
Packers +1.5 — 68.6%
Saints -1.5 — 31.4%

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.

Talking Points NFL bet of the week

Talking Points college bet of the week

Not many in Las Vegas would have expected the two teams to sit at a combined 7-6 straight-up and 6-6-1 against the spread either. A week before the season, the Packers (5-2 straight-up, 4-2-1 against the spread) and Saints (2-4 straight-up, 2-4 against the spread) were the two top teams in tickets to win the Super Bowl at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

New Orleans and Green Bay had opened at 15-to-1 to win the title before getting wagered down to 7- and 10-to-1, respectively.

No one with a Packers slip is complaining — they’re actually down to 6-to-1 on the future board now — but Saints’ backers shouldn’t panic either despite the odds rocketing up to 25-to-1 currently.

Both teams remain the favorite to win their divisions, with the Packers at minus-225 (risking $2.25 to win $1) in the NFC North despite a head-to-head loss to the fellow 5-2 Lions. The Saints are plus-110 (risking $1 to win $1.10) in the NFC South to edge the rival with a one-game lead, the Carolina Panthers, at plus-130 (risking $1 to win $1.30).

Green Bay might only have the fifth-best record in the conference, but it’s the NFC’s prohibitive favorite at 5-to-2 odds and leads with a plus-52 point differential. New Orleans’ minus-10 point differential ranks at the top of the NFC South.

The game is still a potential playoff preview pairing two lethal offenses — ranked second and seventh by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric — in primetime. The Las Vegas Sun’s handicapping contest recognized as much as all three sports writers used one of their six weekly picks — available in full at the bottom of the page — on the showdown to make it the game of the week.

It’s the first NFL game of the year to touch an over/under point total of 56 points. Past history might indicate even more points are imminent.

Each of the three meetings between the Saints and Packers with Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers at the helm have gone over the total with an average of 70 points per game. The two most recent games were in Green Bay, but the last time they tangled in the Superdome, the teams hit 80 points as New Orleans won 51-29 as a 1-point favorite in 2008.

Brees went for 323 yards and four touchdowns in that game, figures that hardly anyone would predict him to reach on Sunday. Brees has been an easy target for blame on the Saints’ decline, but perhaps unfairly.

The 35-year-old is second in the NFL at 319 passing yards per game, and despite 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions, is within five points of his quarterback rating from last season. The Saints lead the NFL at 6.3 yards per play.

A concern might be that the Saints started the season facing five of the NFL’s thirteen worst defenses, according to DVOA, but they met the best last week in Detroit. Brees impressed against the Lions, going 28-for-45 for 342 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-23 loss as 2-point underdogs.

By comparison, Rodgers threw for 162 yards and one touchdown on 16-for-27 passing in the Packers’ 19-7 loss to the Lions as a 1-point underdog.

The real problem for the Saints is a defense that’s played a large role in sending five of their six games over the total. The defense doing all it can to balance out the offensive efficiency, rating dead-last in DVOA and giving up a sixth-worst 5.9 yards per play.

Prized free-agent acquisition Jairus Byrd didn’t prove a coup, as the former Buffalo Bills safety struggled before going down for the season with a knee injury. His counterpart, safety Kenny Vaccaro, has entered the throes of a sophomore slump.

Secondary mates Corey White and Keenan Lewis haven’t played any better, and the line is getting hardly any pressure with nine sacks on the season.

That’s a handful of inopportune issues going into a game with Rodgers, who is garnering no gripes this season. The 30-year-old has tossed 18 touchdowns to just one interception.

He’s helped produce two of the top 20 receivers in the NFL, Jordy Nelson with 712 yards and six touchdowns and Randall Cobb at 452 yards and eight touchdowns, and that’s before getting to his new toy. Rookie Fresno State speedster Davante Adams has nearly 200 yards and caught his second touchdown pass in Green Bay 38-17 pasting over Carolina as a touchdown favorite last week.

The Packers’ defense has also performed better than perceived, allowing the eighth-lowest 5.2 yards per play. The defensive backfield has been a particular strength at sixth in the NFL against the pass according to DVOA.

But two starters, cornerback Sam Shields and safety Morgan Barnett, are questionable and haven’t practiced all week. It’s a potential for yet more points.

Like New Orleans, all but one of Green Bay’s games have soared over the total this season.

Strap in for a vintage air battle with these two teams, regardless of their current standing.

Check below for all of the week 8 picks in the Sun’s handicapping contest, listed in order of sports books’ rotation numbers.

 

Ray Brewer (2013 co-champion)

2014 Record: 25-17 (4-2 last week)

Rams plus-7 at Chiefs

Bills at Jets under 40

Texans minus-3 at Titans

Bengals plus-1.5 vs. Ravens

Cardinals at Eagles over 48

Saints minus-1.5 vs. Pakers

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion, 2013 co-champion)

2014 Record: 24-18 (3-3 last week)

Falcons plus-4 vs. Lions in London

Bears plus-6 at Patriots

Titans plus-3 vs. Texans

Steelers plus-3 vs. Colts

Saints minus-1.5 vs. Packers

Redskins plus-9.5 at Cowboys

 

Taylor Bern

2014 Record: 23-17-2 (4-2 last week)

Vikings plus-2.5 at Buccaneers

Bears at Patriots over 50

Eagles plus-2.5 at Cardinals

Colts minus-3 at Steelers

Packers plus-1.5 at Saints

Redskins plus-9.5 at Cowboys

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

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