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Why I’m taking the underdog in Texans vs. Saints

The Texans and Saints square off in what should be a fun MNF opener. Here’s why I’m taking the underdog.

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the second half of a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The NFL wraps up Week 1 on Monday with the now traditional Monday Night Football doubleheader. The two-game set features the New Orleans Saints hosting the Houston Texans, and then the Oakland Raiders hosting the Denver Broncos. It’s become a regular feature of this doubleheader to open with an appealing matchup, and close with a matchup that can afford to lose eyeballs when it blows past midnight on the east coast.

The night opens with the Saints sitting as a 6.5-point favorite at home against the Texans. The moneyline has the Saints at -286 and the Texans at +245. The point total for the game is 52.5.

It’s a fun matchup to open the night thanks in part to a pair of dynamic quarterbacks. Drew Brees is a future Hall of Famer looking to get one last Super Bowl run as he enters the twilight of his career. He struggled at times in the second half of last season, but the Saints offense remains a dynamic presence. DeShaun Watson enters his third season, and his second regular season since suffering an ACL tear in 2017. He is the dual threat we are seeing more of, rushing for 551 yards last season while surpassing 4,000 passing yards and completing 68 percent of his passes.

The Saints were 14-4 overall last season, and 10-8 against the spread. The Texans were 11-6 overall, and 8-9 against the spread. My favorite betting number centers on the Saints performance against the spread in early season matchups. New Orleans is 2-13 against the spread in their last 15 matchups across Week 1 and Week 2. Last season they lost a Week 1 shocker, losing 48-40 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then barely beat the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, 21-18. In 2017, we saw them lose and fail to cover against Minnesota and New England to open the season. In fact, prior to last season, the Saints had lost at least two straight games to open the season every season after 2013.

Past performance is not indicative of future returns, but that is an intriguing note — especially given the quality of the Texans. While Houston is in the midst of some turmoil following the Jadeveon Clowney trade, they are still a talented roster. Their seventh ranked defense takes a big hit with the loss of Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu, but it still has some solid talent — enough to give the Saints offense some trouble.

I’m taking the points with the Texans because of all that, and because I think this is the year we see Drew Brees start to have to recognize it might be time to retire. He struggled the back half of last season, and I think it becomes a bigger issue this year. The Saints defense and offensive skill position players will still keep them competitive in the NFC South, but they’ll struggle more against quality opponents.

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