Every NFL team has to deal with injuries throughout the season, but every franchise hopes they can stay healthy at the quarterback position. The Saints’ hopes of keeping Drew Brees ready to play a full 16-game season were shattered on Sunday when he suffered a thumb injury against the Rams. Now that Brees will miss a minimum of six weeks of action, it’s time to reevaluate how you bet about the Saints.
The good news for New Orleans is that they have the highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL. Teddy Bridgewater has endured injury issues of his own throughout his career, but he would start for quite a few other teams in the league. Sean Payton and company aren’t going to suddenly transform the entire offense without Brees at the helm. The play calling might get a little more conservative, but Bridgewater is still going to throw the ball a lot for this team.
That doesn’t mean you can just continue to bet the Saints as you have up until this point. Bridgewater might be able to perform as an adequate starter, but he’s not the perennial Pro Bowler that Brees is. The skill position players on this team are going to face a lot more pressure with Bridgewater under center. Guys like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara might not be the productive fantasy stars they usually are over the next six or so weeks.
The Saints will play a challenging, but not overwhelming schedule in Brees’ absence. In order, New Orleans will take on the Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Bears and Cardinals over the next six weeks. For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to work under the relatively optimistic assumption that Brees will return after the bye to take on the Falcons.
The six games Bridgewater will start are evenly split between road and home games. New Orleans will travel to Seattle, Jacksonville and Chicago. That’s not great news for Payton and his coaching staff. Without Brees under center, the Saints could easily end up as underdogs in each of those away contests. The Jaguars game might be a toss-up, but their defense is talented enough to shut down the Saints offense without their offensive talisman.
That leaves the Cowboys, Buccaneers and Cardinals as winnable home games. The absence of Brees should make Dallas the favorite in their matchup, but New Orleans still should have enough talent to handle Arizona and Tampa Bay in the Big Easy.
Add it all up and that leaves New Orleans with a likely stretch of 3-3 or 2-4 without Brees. That certainly doesn’t torpedo their chances of competing for an NFC South title. Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay have all struggled to open the season. The key for the Saints is to stay in the race until Brees can get back onto the field.
The best betting opportunity open for you at the moment is to move quickly to bet on the Saints’ under at 10.5 wins. That number was a little high when you considered the team’s chances with a healthy Brees for a full season. The inevitable slump they are going to go in over the next six weeks makes the under a terrific wager. Move quickly to take advantage of it before the number shifts in reaction to Brees’ absence.
The only other way to take advantage of Brees’ misfortune is to try to examine the line in each game he misses to see if oddsmakers might overreact to his absence. This week’s line against the Seahawks hasn’t been released on Oddschecker.com as of yet. When it does come out, be careful not to just assume Seattle will blow the Saints out without Brees in the fold. The Saints still have enough offensive talent to score points against Seattle’s defense. I like the Seahawks to win at home, but don’t get crazy with gifting New Orleans with too many points. Any line that gives the Saints more than 6.5 points should be avoided.
The good news for the Saints is that Brees’ season doesn’t seem to be over. That keeps all of your postseason best on New Orleans alive for the time being. It’ll be up to Bridgewater and company to make sure Brees has something to play for when he returns to the field.