Leg 1 - New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Seattle Seahawks (-110)
The New Orleans Saints are better on both sides of the ball. That is a simple explanation, and we will dive into it deeper than that, but that is what this comes down to. Of course, if Russell Wilson were healthy, that would not be the case, but the reality is that Geno Smith is playing. Smith does not compare to Wilson, even if he is plenty functional as a spot starter.
Dennis Allen’s defense has once again been a quietly great unit. The Saints currently rank third in defensive DVOA behind the Bills and Cardinals, placing ninth in pass defense and second in run defense. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore has returned to elite form and the front-seven has been lights out thanks to both veteran and rookie contributions. Perhaps their non-Lattimore cornerbacks are still volatile, but not to such a degree that it negates how well everyone else is playing.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints offense has been fine. I know, I know: that is not a ringing endorsement. But “fine” has typically been enough for them considering how well their defense is playing and how effectively they have limited Jameis Winston’s volatility. He still has his typical Jameis moments from time to time, but has fewer chances to do so, not to mention this Saints offense is easier on the quarterback than the Bruce Arians or Dirk Koetter offenses Winston had in Tampa Bay. Seattle’s defense also ranks just 22nd in DVOA, so it is not as though they are running into a buzzsaw here.
It’s also worth noting that the Saints are coming off a bye week. Sean Payton is one of the smartest head coaches in the league and I’d feel confident that he has cooked up a nice game plan versus a struggling defense with that extra time.
Leg 2 - Colts RB Jonathan Taylor, Anytime Touchdown Scorer (-110)
The first couple weeks of the season were brutal for Jonathan Taylor. The offensive line could not block a soul and the offense as a whole was horrendously unlucky. Week 2 against the Rams, in particular, featured an unfortunate string of red zone failures that hurt Taylor’s scoring numbers. Taylor has experienced a nice course correction since then.
Though Taylor did not score in Week 3, he has totaled five touchdowns over the past three weeks. Taylor has four rushing touchdowns over that span, including two last week against Houston, and one receiving touchdown.
Taylor’s domination of the Colts’ red zone touches has played a huge hand in his scoring streak. Through six weeks, Taylor has taken 28 carries and earned one target in the red zone on a combined 65 drop backs (passes or sacks) or rush attempts. That means Taylor is earning nearly half of the team’s touches in the red zone, which bodes well for him getting plenty of chances in this game.
Moreover, the San Francisco 49ers defense has given up a good deal of rushing touchdowns. They have already given up six rushing touchdowns on the year, averaging more than one per game (San Francisco had their bye last week and have only played five games). This matchup is a nice blend of Taylor being a clear red zone bellcow in addition to facing a susceptible defense.
Leg 3 - Saints RB Alvin Kamara, Over 29.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
Alvin Kamara is an excellent receiving back. He has been a bit slower out of the gate with it this season, in part because of the decreased volume of passing attempts, but he is still a threat when he gets the ball out in space. That part of the equation is easy.
The Seahawks also present a favorable matchup for any receiving back. They have struggled to handle pass-catchers out of the backfield this season. Per Football Outsiders, the Seahawks have allowed the 10th-most targets to running backs this year. That alone is not so bad, but Seattle also ranks 28th in DVOA and 30th in yards per game allowed to running backs (58.3) in the receiving game. Simply put, the Seahawks defense gives up more yardage than they should relative to the kind of volume they see from running backs who catch passes.
Furthermore, the Seahawks have allowed six different running backs to eclipse this 29.5 yards in receiving mark , if you include 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The Rams did not have any such running backs in their meeting a couple weeks ago, but in Week 1, both Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines cleared 40 receiving yards against the Seahawks defense. Suffice to say, Kamara is good enough to be one of the many backs who have cleared this mark.