The Saints ripped through the regular season with a 13-3 overall record last season, but they drew the short end of the stick when it came to tiebreakers with the 49ers and the Packers, with whom they shared the best record in the NFC. The Saints were forced to play in the Wild Card Round (-310 to make the playoffs) where the Vikings stunned them in a 26-20 overtime loss as 7.5-point home favorites. It was a bitter finish for the Saints after they ran off an NFL-best 11-5 against-the-spread record in the regular season, which included a league-best 7-1 road ATS record. They outperformed expectations when Teddy Bridgewater stepped into the lineup for an injured Drew Brees as the Saints ripped off a six-game ATS winning streak in Weeks 3-8.
The Saints dominated in one-score games with a 7-1 record, but their lone loss came at the hands of the 49ers in the final minute of Week 14, which enabled San Fran to earn home-field advantage, which in turn changed the outlook of the entire postseason. New Orleans also finished with a 4-2 mark in games decided by three scores or more. They finished 9-7 to over totals with an offense that averaged 28.1 points per game (5th-most) and a defense that allowed 21.6 PPG (18th-most). Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 149 catches, and he cashed at +1000 odds for leading the league in receiving yards (1725).
New Orleans’ 2020 season win total didn’t move from last season’s 10.5-win line despite the Saints cruising past the mark by two and a half victories. New Orleans went over its 2019 season win total in Week 15 last season with their victory over the Colts on Monday Night Football, which happened to be the same game Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s career passing touchdown record. The Saints are -385 to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Entering training camp, I have the Saints power rated as the fourth-best team in the NFL (+1200 to win Super Bowl LV), as the second-best team in the NFC (+600 to win the conference), and as the best team in the NFC South (-134).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4)||4:25|
|2||@Las Vegas Raiders (-4.5)||8:15 (Mon)|
|3||Green Bay Packers (-6.5)||8:20 (Sun)|
|5||Los Angeles Chargers||8:!5 (Mon)|
|9||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)||8:20 (Sun)|
|10||San Francisco 49ers (-2.5)||4:25|
|12||@Denver Broncos (-3.5)||4:05|
|14||@Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5)||4:25|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||4:25|
|16||Minnesota Vikings (-6)||4:30 (Fri)|
Key Off-season Moves
Emmanuel Sanders (WR)
Malcolm Jenkins (S)
Cesar Ruiz (OG)
Jameis Winston (QB)
Zack Baun (LB)
D.J. Swearinger (S)
Ty Montgomery (RB)
A.J. Klein (LB, Buf)
Eli Apple (CB, Car)
Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Car)
Ted Ginn (WR, Chi)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||10.5 (-106/-115)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Saints saw little organizational turnover this off-season from a team that went 13-3 before flaming out in the opening round of the playoffs. New Orleans could actually be stronger in 2020 than a year ago with WR Emmanuel Sanders, S Malcolm Jenkins, and first-round iOL Cesar Ruiz added to the mix with just CB Eli Apple (Panthers) and LB A.J. Klein (Bills) exiting this off-season. The Saints could have the best offensive and defensive continuity in the league since their roster and their coaching staff has stayed largely intact.
The Saints have continuity working in their favor and, just as important, they also have the talent to back it up this season The Saints have the second-most complete roster behind only the Ravens, which is going to matter more than ever before given the circumstances this season will be played under. The Saints survived and thrived when Drew Brees went down for five games last season — Teddy Bridgewater went 5-0 overall and 5-0 ATS — and they still have the best QB depth chart with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill waiting in the wings.
The Saints have a tricky and important season opener against their main competition for the NFC South title in the Buccaneers. They’ll go into that game semi-blind since there will be no tape on the new look Buccaneers with Tom Brady leading the offense. If they can sneak out a win as four-point favorites in the season opener, New Orleans’ schedule eases up considerably after that.
They should be favored in their first seven games of the season (TB, @LV, GB, @Det, LAC, bye, Car, @Chi) before their schedule gets tougher in the back half of the season. Overall, the Saints would be favored in all but one of their games (@TB in Week 9) entering the season and their two toughest games will be played in the Superdome against the Chiefs and the 49ers.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Saints simply can’t run as hot as they did in 2019. They finished behind only the Patriots with a +15 turnover differential last season. The Saints also ended the regular season with a 7-1 record in one-score games in 2019 before their season painfully came to a crashing halt in a one-score loss to the Vikings in the Wild Card Round. The Saints finished with 13 wins and a +117 point differential last season, which was only four points more than the Cowboys, a team that had five fewer victories.
The Saints also had the good fortune of playing in an extremely weak NFC South last season. The Falcons, the Buccaneers, and the Panthers combined for a .396 winning percentage last season with none of those squads reaching .500. The Buccaneers are expected to be massively improved this season with Tom Brady in the fold, and the Panthers should be more competitive than they were for most of the 2019 season. The Saints could also be hurt more than most teams if they lose some of the home-field advantage they’re accustomed to in the Superdome, although they did go 7-1 on the road with a 7-1 ATS mark last season.
The Saints could be the Super Bowl favorites by the beginning of November as they should be favorites in their first seven games, but their schedule does get significantly tougher in the second half of the season. They have eight straight games between Week 8-16 against teams lined at 7.5 wins or more (@Chi, @TB, SF, Atl, @Den, @Atl, @Phi, KC, Min), including a three-game road stand in Weeks 12-14 against the Broncos, the Falcons, and the Eagles.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Drew Brees: passing yards (3900.5), passing TDs (29.5), MVP (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projections: passing yards (4100), passing TDs (31)
Best-case scenario: Brees is able to keep up his ridiculous efficiency in his age-41 season with an even better cast than he had last season with Emmanuel Sanders added to the mix.
Worst-case scenario: The Saints lean more into their rushing game this season with a healthy Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill takes on a bigger role and steals some touchdown opportunities away from Brees.
Michael Thomas: receiving yards (1375.5), most receiving yards (+600), OPOY (+1000)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1425), receptions (125)
Best-case scenario: Thomas maintains his stranglehold as the league’s top receiver even with Emmanuel Sanders added to the mix, and he sees a boost in end-zone targets after seeing just six on 185 overall targets (3.2%).
Worst-case scenario: Thomas sees a dip in usage with Sanders and Jared Cook taking on bigger roles in this passing attack while Alvin Kamara has a bounce-back campaign after struggling through an ankle injury last season.
Alvin Kamara: rushing yards (850.5), rushing + receiving yards (1450.5), most rushing yards (+3300), OPOY (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projections: rushing yards (965), rushing + receiving yards (1555)
Best-case scenario: Kamara catches 81 passes on the nose for the fourth straight year to start his career, but he gets back to his efficiency from his first two seasons to rank among the league leaders in scrimmage yards.
Worst-case scenario: Kamara’s days of elite efficiency are behind him and HC Sean Payton carves out a bigger role for Latavius Murray in his second season in New Orleans.
Best Bets and Leans
Michael Thomas is looking to become the first receiver to lead the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons since Calvin Johnson did it back in 2011-12. Our projections currently have Thomas forecasted for a league-best 1425 yards, 35 yards more than second-favorite Julio Jones (+900), and 140 yards more than third-favorite Chris Godwin (+1200). Thomas easily paced the league by 331 receiving yards last season with 1725 yards, and he has 3130 yards over the last two seasons.
Thomas will have more competition for targets with Emmanuel Sanders in town, but he still has a great chance to pace the league in targets. He also has a distinct advantage over many of the other top receivers because of the rapport he’s built with Drew Brees, which is important during a season with so much uncertainty. Some of his top competition (Godwin, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins) will be acclimating to new QBs while Julio, his top competition, has to start declining a bit unless he has Jerry Rice-like longevity. I rarely look to bet on favorites when it comes to NFL futures, but I think Thomas has distanced himself as the league’s best receiver. He’s a tier above the rest of the league, which is why I’m betting Thomas to lead the league in receiving yards with a small wager at +600 odds.
Thomas’ continuity with Brees is a big reason why I like him to lead the league in receiving yards. The continuity across this franchise is also the major reason why I’m betting on the Saints to win over 10.5 wins. I’m also betting on New Orleans to win the NFC Championship at +650 odds and the Super Bowl at +1200. The Saints will have as much continuity as any team in the league, which will work to their advantage even more than usual this season.
Continuity will only take a team so far, which is fine in the case of the Saints since I think they have the second-most talented roster in the league. Entering the season, the Saints would be favored in all but one of their games (@TB in Week 9) and their two toughest games will be played in the Superdome against the Chiefs and the 49ers. If the Saints can beat the upstart Buccaneers in the season opener, they’ll have a great chance to be the Super Bowl betting favorites by the time November rolls around. New Orleans’ preseason odds could be the longest we see them all year barring a major injury to Brees or Thomas.
Best Bets: Saints over 10.5 wins (+100, FanDuel). Risk one unit to win one unit…Saints to win the Super Bowl (+1200, DraftKings/FanDuel). Risk half a unit to win six units….Saints to win the NFC Championship (+650, FanDuel). Risk half a unit to win three units…Michael Thomas most receiving yards in the NFL (+600, DraftKings). Risk half a unit to win three units.