After two games, it seemed like the same old New Orleans Saints.
The path was well worn. Good offense, horrible defense, more losses than wins. We had seen that show before. The Saints allowed a passer rating of 141.4 (!) in their first two games, gave up 388.5 passing yards per game, were 0-2 and lost both games by double digits. It seemed like another wasted season of Drew Brees’ career was in progress.
Since then, the Saints are 4-0, have allowed 161 passing yards per game and won those games by 21, 20, 14 and nine points. It’s a total turnaround.
We always knew the offense was good — and rookie running back Alvin Kamara has added to it — but they needed a better defense. The defense had been awful for years. It’s probably too simplistic to credit rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore for the turnaround, but he’s been the biggest key. The Saints lucked into Lattimore with their first-round pick (remember, they wanted quarterback Patrick Mahomes and settled for Lattimore) and he has been a fantastic No. 1 cornerback right away. Cornerback Ken Crawley is also playing well in his second year. The defensive line has been good, especially with Cameron Jordan rarely coming off the field and Alex Okafor being productive. The pieces are finally fitting.
If the Saints defense is this good, they’re the best team in the NFC South. They’d also be a legitimate contender in the NFC, which has some good but no great teams yet.
Sunday is a spot for the Saints to keep rolling. The Chicago Bears don’t seem too interesting in throwing the ball, and they’re not going to complete four passes and beat the Saints, like they did last week against the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the Bears can keep drives moving on the ground, because the Saints are still vulnerable in run defense. But outscoring the Saints at home will be a tough task and even though the Saints are nine-point favorites in the SuperContest and 10-point favorites in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em, I’m taking them. It’s time to buy into the Saints. They’ll overwhelm a scrappy Bears team.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 8 of the NFL season:
49ers (+12.5) over Eagles: It might be hard for the Eagles to get up for this one. They looked great in a Monday night win over division rival Washington, and now the winless 49ers come to town. But before last week, the 49ers had been very competitive. I don’t think the Eagles are on upset alert, but this spread is too high. (The spread is plus-14 in Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Panthers (+2) over Buccaneers: I know Carolina looked bad in Chicago last week, but I have no idea why Tampa Bay is favored. They really haven’t done anything to earn that. The Panthers are inconsistent but have at least looked like a good team at times this season. (The spread is plus-1 in Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Cowboys (-2) over Redskins: Washington’s offensive line injuries are incredible. They have five linemen hurt, including four starters. Some of them will play through the pain, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be effective. Under normal circumstances I’d like Washington in this spot, but this is not a normal circumstance. (The spread is minus-1 in Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Seahawks (-5.5) over Texans: If Deshaun Watson can go into Seattle and play like he has been playing, it’ll be another sign that he’s going to be a star for many years. I’m still not sure of the Houston defense without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus; remember that their only test since losing those two stars was against an incompetent Browns team.
Here are the rest of the picks …
Dolphins (+3) over Ravens (picked Thursday): I could not have been more wrong about Matt Moore giving Miami a spark. I can’t remember a team this bad having a winning record at this point in the season. Miami is 4-3 and plays like a 1-6 team.
Browns (+10.5) over Vikings: Can’t say I feel good about picking the Browns in any game. But it’s hard to lay double digits on a team in these London games. I wouldn’t be picking this if I didn’t pick every game.
Raiders (+2.5) over Bills: The Bills have been quite good, but I’m going to be stubborn about the Raiders for one more week. I think they use the incredible win over the Chiefs as a springboard and get back into the playoff race. I don’t think the Raiders are ready to go away yet.
Colts (+12) over Bengals: It’s hard to pick the Colts, but do you trust the Bengals laying 12 points against anyone?
Chargers (+8.5) over Patriots: The Chargers are a pretty good team, and don’t underestimate the loss of Dont’a Hightower to the Patriots’ defense. According to ESPN, the Patriots allow 1.4 more yards per play without Hightower on the field this season. This could be a fun, close game.
Jets (+4.5) over Falcons: I don’t know how the Jets are doing it, but they’re not that bad. The Falcons just haven’t gotten it going this season, other than a great Week 2 win over Green Bay, and I’m not sure another road trip to the Northeast does the trick.
Lions (+2.5) over Steelers: If the Steelers could ever get over their bouts of drama, this could be a really good team. I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I think the Steelers are the better team but Detroit is coming off a bye and needs to right things quickly.
Broncos (+8) over Chiefs: We have to remember that if NFL teams have a really bad game, they’re generally not that bad. We see teams change stripes every week and I know this: The Broncos’ defense is still fantastic. I think the line is a bit of an overreaction (though I can’t say I like going against a good Chiefs team on a two-game losing streak and extra prep time for Andy Reid) and Denver can at least keep it close.
Last week: 5-9-1
Season to date: 60-43-4
SuperContest: 1-3-1 last week, 19-14-2 season to date
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