5 Reasons Why the Saints Will Win Super Bowl 52
If you haven’t been paying too much attention to the New Orleans Saints over the first half of this season, I understand. After opening the year with a pair of lopsided losses, it looked like New Orleans was well on its way to a fourth straight losing season.
But while the resurgence of the Eagles and Rams, the Ezekiel Elliott saga, and the Aaron Rodgers injury have been dominating most of the NFC headlines, the Saints have been quietly developing into a force to be reckoned with. Not only was last week’s 47-10 blowout of the Buffalo Bills New Orleans’ seventh straight victory, it was also the Saints’ seventh straight point spread cover and their seventh straight victory by more than a converted touchdown.
A 37-point victory on the road over a 5-3 opponent might now mean that the secret is out on New Orleans, but I don’t think it means the betting value is gone on the Saints as a Super Bowl contender. In fact, I’m recommending that you seriously consider betting New Orleans to win Super Bowl 52 before the price starts to dip even more.
Why the Saints Will Win Super Bowl 52
There’s just so much to love right now about the Saints’ potential to be this year’s Super Bowl champion.
Here are my top 5 reasons:
Wow, that felt weird to write.
After all, in the 12 years that Sean Payton has been the head coach in New Orleans (including the year in which he was suspended for Bountygate), most of any success the Saints have enjoyed has come in spite of their defense. They’ve ranked 23rd or worse in yards allowed in 8 of Payton’s first 11 seasons on the New Orleans sideline, and they’ve finished in the bottom 3 of the league in points allowed 3 times.
It looked like more of the same to start the year, when the Saints were gashed for 1,025 yards and allowed 65 points combined to the Vikings and Patriots. But New Orleans has since turned things around dramatically, holding 6 of its last 7 opponents to 17 points or less.
The Saints go into Week 11 with the sixth-fewest points allowed per game, the seventh-fewest yards allowed through the air, and the eighth-fewest total yards against. Granted, they haven’t faced the world’s best offenses lately (the teams they held to 17 points or less were Carolina, Miami, Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers, Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo), but now they’ve got tons of confidence – something they haven’t had defensively in a long time.
Bad defense has defined the Saints for many years, and so has their reliance on Drew Brees’ right arm.
Brees has thrown for the most passing yards in the NFL in each of the last 3 seasons and 5 of the past 6, partly because New Orleans was commonly playing from behind, but also partly because the Saints couldn’t run the ball effectively. The Saints have been in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing yards 3 times in the last 5 years, and weren’t higher than 13th in the league in those other 2 seasons.
That’s also changed dramatically this season. Even though the Adrian Peterson experiment in New Orleans didn’t work out, the Saints have been prolific in moving the ball on the ground. Their rushing average of 142.2 yards per game is the third-highest in the NFL, and they’ve actually scored more touchdowns on the ground this season (14) than through the air (13). Sunday in Buffalo, the Saints set a franchise record with 6 rushing touchdowns during a performance that saw them run the ball on their final 24 offensive plays and finish with nearly 300 rushing yards.
Being able to run the football with such efficiency limits the amount of hits that the aging Brees has to take, opens up big-play opportunities down the field in the passing game, makes play-action more effective, and keeps the defense off the field. It’ll also help the Saints survive in cold-weather climates once the playoffs come around.
Everyone knows the Saints have a strong home field advantage when playing at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
But New Orleans has actually won more games this season on the road (4) than it has at home (3). It makes sense, since playing strong defense and controlling the ball with the run game is the best recipe for taking the opposing team’s crowd out of the game. It certainly worked last week in Buffalo, and it was also a key to winning at Lambeau Field last month.
Over their past 4 road games, the Saints have averaged just 10 points against. That bodes well for the playoffs, since New Orleans is currently in a 3-way tie for the second-best record in the NFC, and would likely have to win at least one road game to get to the Super Bowl.
Of the four current division leaders in the NFC, the Saints have significant advantages over the rest of the teams when it comes to experience at their leadership positions.
Both Brees and Payton have won a Super Bowl, doing so together in 2009. They’re also veterans of 10 playoff games, posting a 6-4 record in postseason play. Though they haven’t had a taste of playoff football since 2013, they certainly won’t be overwhelmed by the spotlight.
Contrast that with the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams, current leaders of the NFC East and West. Both the Eagles and Rams have second-year quarterbacks who haven’t even played in meaningful games in December, let alone face the win-or-go-home pressure of the playoffs. Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson and Rams coach Sean McVay also have yet to lead a team into postseason battle.
And while the Vikings, who hold a two-game lead atop the NFC North, have been to the playoffs before under head coach Mike Zimmer, they haven’t won a postseason game since 2009. Regardless of whether Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum is Minnesota’s starting quarterback when the playoffs roll around, there’s no question that New Orleans would have a big advantage with Brees under center.
It’s a really good year to be a pretty good team in the NFC, because many of the top teams from the past few seasons are having subpar campaigns.
The Packers’ season was basically derailed by the injury to Rodgers, even if there’s the potential for Green Bay’s star pivot to return to action in a month. The Cowboys got off to a slow start this year and looked lost last week in Atlanta without Ezekiel Elliott and top offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Atlanta’s record-setting offense from last year has been nowhere near as dangerous this season, whether it’s due to the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, or simply a Super Bowl hangover. Seattle just lost Richard Sherman to injury, lost two weeks ago at home to Washington, and needed final-minute scores to beat San Francisco and Houston this season.
Philadelphia and the Rams may look really good right now, but don’t forget that they’re unproven in playoff competition. Just look at how the Cowboys went out in the opening round last week after enjoying similar regular-season success.
Are the Saints a Good Bet to Win Super Bowl 52?
Again, I’m a big believer in the Saints’ Super Bowl chances. And so are the oddsmakers.
BetOnline currently lists New Orleans fourth on its Super Bowl 52 odds at +800, behind only the Patriots (+300), Eagles (+500), and Steelers (+700). No other team pays less than +1200 (the Rams).
Their remaining schedule includes the Redskins this week (New Orleans is favored by 7.5 points), home games against the Panthers, Jets, and Falcons, and road games at the Rams, Falcons, and Buccaneers. I expect the Saints to be favored in at least 5 of those remaining 7 games, and they’re already -130 favorites to win the NFC South. A top-two finish in the NFC not only looks like a possibility, it may even be a probability.
At that point, the Saints would just need to win one game at home following a first-round bye, then probably either win another game at home or in Philadelphia to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl 52.
Given all of their advantages as a strong defensive and running team, playoff experience, and proven leadership, +800 odds on New Orleans right now looks like pretty good value.