The Saints and Vikings kick off the 2010 NFL regular season this Thursday night in New Orleans. The game is a rematch of the NFC championship game, which the Saints won in overtime, 31-28 on Garrett Hartley’s 40 yard field goal.
According to our NFL betting odds page, New Orleans opened as a 4 ½ point favorite and some books are holding strong. Others have moved the Saints to 5 with Bodog listing the Saints at 6 points. For a variety of reasons, I think this line has tremendous value for the Saints.
First off, the Saints are getting played around 80%, which by now should have pushed the line closer to 6 or 7 points at most sites. Bodog has been responsive to public action, but most books have been hesitant to move the line much, if at all. This might be an indication that oddsmakers see the Vikes as more of a field goal underdog than a touchdown ‘dog.
But consider this – how have oddsmakers accounted for the loss of Sidney Rice? Not at all. And anyone who watched Viking games last year understands that Rice is Favre’s favorite target by far. Granted, Favre looks for Visanthe Shiancoe when near the goal line (just like he looked for Bubba Franks and Mark Chmura in Green Bay). But when he needs big yards, Rice is the man. On top of that, Percy Harvin’s migraines have kept him from getting the reps he needs, and might limit his effectiveness Thursday night. Oddsmakers have failed to reflect Minnesota’s wide receiver troubles in their betting lines. That means good value for Saints’ backers.
Also working against the Vikings is their recent road record. Minnesota has lost 4 of their last 5 regular season road games, losing each one by more than 6 points, with 3 of the 4 by a margin of 10 points or more. While the Vikes managed to win at Green Bay, their other 3 road wins – which came early – were against Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis. Not exactly a murderer’s row. Now they have to travel back to the Superdome to take on the defending champs on the night they hoist the banner.
Further, Adrian Peterson struggled somewhat last year. Sure, he got his yards and touchdowns. But did you know that in the regular season Peterson topped the 100 yard mark in only 3 games? While 1 of the 3 games was at home against the Ravens, the other 2 were against Cleveland and Detroit. On top of that, Peterson’s fumbles cost the Vikings against the Saints in the NFC championship game. How has that affected his confidence? How will he respond going back to the scene of his failures?
Lastly, Favre’s age, health and back-up could all come into play. The 40 year old is playing in his 20th NFL season with a recently surgically repaired ankle. And the Saints are the team responsible for injuring that ankle. By all accounts, the Saints will take aim for Favre and his ankle. If he can’t make it through the game, Tavaris Jackson has to take the reins of the offense – a thought that makes all Viking fans shudder.
Nevertheless, the Vikings did outplay and significantly outgain the Saints in the NFC title game, 475 to 257 yards. Also, Darren Sharper is out for the first six games of the season, which hurts the Saints’ secondary. If Peterson is able to set the tone with his powerful running, if Favre can stay clean of vicious Saints hits, and if the Vikings front 7 can dominate the Saints’ offensive interior, Minnesota can win this game.
All things considered, however, I think the Saints have good betting value with the current lines. The public is hitting the Saints pretty hard, and the line hasn’t moved much. Sidney Rice is out with injury, and the numbers didn’t budge. The Vikes have had regular season road troubles. Peterson needs to be more consistent, and Favre’s age and ankle are question marks. If you can play the Saints anywhere near 4 ½ points, that looks to be a solid play.
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