NFL Picks Against The Spread: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints
- The Packers have generated more than 1,000 yards of total offense through two weeks, most in the NFL
- Per NFL’s NextGen Stats, Drew Brees’ Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) of -8.4 is 32nd of 34 qualifying passers. He ranked 2nd in this stat in 2019 at +6.3.
Green Bay’s offseason was seemingly focused on shifting the offense away from a reliance on Aaron Rodgers. They added no significant new pass-catching threats and drafted a backup quarterback and a running back in the first two rounds of April’s draft. And yet Rodgers has come out guns blazing in 2020, averaging over 300 yards passing and throwing six touchdowns through two weeks to lead what has been the league’s most prolific offense.
In Week 3, Rodgers leads the Packers to New Orleans to face another veteran quarterback seemingly on his last legs in Drew Brees. Brees has been a shell of himself so far in 2020. A metric called Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) from the NFL’s NextGen Stats looks at a variety of factors including depth of a throw to determine the likelihood each completion, and then compares a quarterback’s actual completion percentage to an expected completion percentage. The always-accurate Brees ranked second in the NFL in 2019 in CPOE, but so far in 2020 he’s not only lost the high efficiency he typically added over expectation, he’s been far worse than the expected result, missing throws and dropping to among the league’s least-accurate passers to start the year. At the same time, his already low average throw depth has fallen even lower to 4.9 yards, meaning he’s hardly even attempting to push the ball down the field.
Both Rodgers and Brees will be without their superstar No. 1 wide receivers, as neither Davante Adams or Michael Thomas will suit up for Sunday Night Football. When Rodgers lost Adams in Week 2, the offense centered around superstar running back Aaron Jones, who went for 236 yards and three scores. At least some of the room Jones found can be chalked up to the threat Rodgers still presented the Lions’ defense.
Jones might not find quite as much room to run against the Saints’ rush defense, which is a better unit than the Lions. But Rodgers has been enough of a threat to beat defenses over the top, even to secondary receivers Allen Lazard and especially Marquez Valdes-Scantling, that there’s balance in this offense. The Saints’ superstar running back Alvin Kamara hasn’t been so lucky, as Brees hasn’t threatened defenses in a way to keep them from keying on Kamara. Kamara’s still been productive, but per Sharp Football Stats, New Orleans’ offense ranks 25th in the NFL in successful play rate, while Green Bay has been third.
Of course, the Saints’ defense presents more of a challenge for Rodgers and the Packers than they’ve seen through two divisional matchups with the Vikings and Lions. And part of why Green Bay has needed to be so productive on offense is their own defense has allowed the sixth-highest rate of yards per play through two weeks. That’s how we wind up with a high total and the Saints favored by 3 back at home, as the line indicates the Packers’ defense could be just what Brees and the New Orleans offense need to get back on track.
But I’m more concerned about the trends we’ve seen from the Saints’ offense through two weeks. And if their defense does slow down the Packers a little bit, this looks like a game that could go under the high total. I do expect this game will be close, and I also like a little added value of the Packers on the money line.
FanDuel are offering new customers the chance to back the Chiefs or the Ravens moneyline at 15/1 on MNF! Click the link below to find out more.
NFL Expert Picks
Pick 1: Green Bay ML @ +150
Pick 2: Under 53 @ -110
NFL Free Picks
Ben Gretch is known for his ability to use statistics and in-depth knowledge to break down NFL games and pick winners. Elsewhere this week we have more great NFL coverage from Ben Rolfe and the enigmatic Davis Mattek delivering a video breakdown of that huge Monday Night Football game.