Following an action-packed first Sunday of the 2019 NFL season, we get two more games on Monday. The Raiders will play their final home game in Oakland against the Denver Broncos in the nightcap, while the Houston Texans will visit the New Orleans Saints in the first contest.
The Saints and Texans have faced one another a number of times in the preseason, but this will be just the fifth time they’ll have squared off in the regular season. The teams have split the first four meetings, though the Texans got the better of the Saints the last time they played. Houston picked up a 24-6 win at home over New Orleans back in November of 2015.
The Saints are betting favorites at the top NFL betting sites in this one, but the spread is under a touchdown as of this writing. New Orleans checks in as a 6-½ point favorite in a game with an over/under of 52 ½ points.
|2019 Preseason Record||11-6||14-4|
|2018 ATS Home||4-5-0||4-6-0|
|2018 ATS Away||3-4-1||6-2-0|
|2018 O/U Home||3-6-0||5-5-0|
|2018 O/U Away||4-4-0||2-6-0|
New Orleans lost Mark Ingram to free agency, which means the team no longer has the thunder to Alvin Kamara’s lightning in the backfield. The writing was on the wall for Ingram in New Orleans, though, as it seemed like it would be just a matter of time until Kamara took the reins. Kamara ran for nearly 900 yards on 194 attempts last season (better than five yards per carry) while adding another 709 yards through the air. He found the end zone 18 times, and the Saints clearly believe he’s able to handle a full workload.
The Saints did bring in Latavius Murray, formerly of the Raiders and Vikings, to help Kamara handle the load. Murray amassed 578 yards on 140 carries of his own a season ago with Minnesota, but he’ll largely serve as a complementary piece with Kamara taking the lion’s share of the duties moving forward.
The Saints were a game away from the Super Bowl last season, and this will obviously be their first game since that heartbreaking NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The football betting sites are still backing the Saints to make another strong push towards the title this season, but the age of Drew Brees has to be something of a concern.
Brees hasn’t shown much of a drop-off at all in recent years, but Father Time comes for everybody. Tom Brady may be the lone exception to the rule at this point. Brees is coming off of yet another prolific campaign in which he totaled nearly 4,000 yards passing with 32 touchdowns to just five interceptions. His offense will face a stiff test in this one, however, as the Texans ranked third in the league against the run last season.
If the Texans are stifling Kamara and the Saints’ running game, Brees may have to do most of his damage through the air.
The Texans had a bit of a wild offseason. They fired their general manager after the draft and subsequently handed the controls to head coach Bill O’Brien, who now wears several different hats within the organization. Houston also got punished for sniffing around the Patriots’ front office amid their GM search without asking permission, which was a bit of an embarrassment.
O’Brien made a handful of trades a week before the season as well. He controversially dealt former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks in exchange for a couple of linebackers. A few hours later, he landed All-Pro left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wideout Kenny Stills in a trade that sent a couple of future first-round picks to Miami. The Texans also traded for running backs Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde, with Hyde coming over after Lamar Miller went down with a season-ending ACL tear.
So, O’Brien has essentially transformed his offense around Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins overnight. Getting Tunsil was huge considering Watson was constantly running for his life a season ago behind what was arguably the worst offensive line in football. Between Hopkins, Stills, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee, Watson has a nice array of weaponry on the outside with which to work as well.
I’d have some reluctance to take New Orleans here if the spread were greater than a touchdown. I think the Texans did improve themselves in the short-term with their aforementioned trades, and at this point, I’d be surprised if Houston didn’t finish the season atop the AFC South once again. They’re the best team in the division, barring injury.
That said, the Saints at home are always a tough team to beat. They were actually better on the road last season, but that’s not something I’d expect to continue. Few teams go into the Superdome and come away victorious. I do think the Texans match up pretty well with New Orleans from a talent perspective, but I think the Saints covering the spread is the safest way to attack this game from a betting perspective. All they have to do is win by a touchdown.
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