Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Green Bay -1 over New Orleans
1:00 EST. At first glance the NFC South may look like a powerhouse division. The Saints, Falcons, and Bucs are all undefeated through two games. Of that group, the Saints remain a small favorite to clinch a NFC South title, but so far we haven't been all that impressed.
Statistics will tell you that this is an elite defense and we don't necessarily disagree. The Saints are top 5 in points per game, yards per game, 3rd down conversion rate, and redzone conversion rate allowed to their two opponents. That's impressive regardless of the matchup. As always, we must consider how trustworthy these marks are, though, since A) Two games is an extremely small sample size, and B) The level of competition still matters.
In Week 1 the Saints benefitted from some truly grotesque turnovers by Ryan Tannehill. The 35-year old QB wasn't very crisp, throwing for a subpar completion percentage (16-34) and three interceptions.Two of those interceptions led to 10 Saints points. It's worth noting that Tannehill didn't play a single snap in the preseason. Like other struggling Week 1 quarterbacks (ahem, Joe Burrow), that tends to affect a starter's rhythm and timing with his offense. New Orleans' run-defense was average, permitting 104 yards.
In Week 2 the Saints took on the Carolina Panthers and Bryce Young in the rookie's first home-game. Do we need to say more here? Young is clearly in development-mode. He struggled mightily to find his wide-receivers all game and the Saints, to their credit, are exceptional at creating pressure with just a four-man front. An above-average secondary can then settle in and challenge even the best QBs. Despite the matchup advantage, the Panthers still covered +3½ in a loss.
The Saints' defense is likely very solid - after all Dennis Allen was their defensive coordinator before assuming the head coach role - and that's probably why the Against the Spread (ATS) line is so short heading into Sunday. It's the Saints' offense that's a real cause for concern.
Derek Carr just hasn't looked comfortable. The long-time Raiders' thrower has a deer-in-headlights look through two games, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and leading his offense to a 25th best 18 ppg - not exactly the effectiveness the franchise was looking for when they signed the free agent QB. In his postgame interview after beating the Panthers, Carr acknowledged as much, saying the Saints' haven't played very well offensively and implying that they're lucky to be 2-0 heading into Week 3. We agree, and this Sunday will present a considerably more difficult challenge from where we're sitting.
The Packers are a good test for the Saints in several regards. According to many analysts, their offensive line is among the NFL's best, and who are we to argue? Jordan Love wasn't touched in the preseason, and he's only been sacked twice in two games. New Orleans may not be able to only rush four guys like they usually do, unless they don't mind Love sitting back with 3-6 seconds to throw on every play, of course.
Speaking of Love, the kid was maligned in the media before ever taking a snap in 2023 and he's stepped up to the plate and then-some. Love already has six touchdown passes, has yet to throw an interception, and he's been able to move the ball with zip and confidence when the Packers needed a pivotal 3rd down conversion (they're 5th overall through two weeks, completing 48% of their third down attempts). Last week Love threw a dime for a fourth down conversion, giving Green Bay an opportunity to take the lead in the final seconds at Atlanta. The receiver dropped the pass and the Packers lost by one point. They'll seek revenge in their first home-game this Sunday.
Defensively the Packers have a young, exciting group that hasn't faced a tough test yet. So far their stats show a defense that's better inclined to limit the passing game, earning impressive marks in opponent completion percentage (50%) and yards per pass allowed (6.1). Of course they faced two run-first offenses through two weeks, but Lambeau Field will be a welcome change of scenery after two tough road games to open the season. Expect the cheeseheads to level-up this defense’s effort.
According to reports, it's likely that David Bahktiari, Aaron Jones, and Christian Watson all suit up Sunday. That'll be a major boost for Jordan Love, who's steadied the ship despite not having the trio last weekend. As long as the line remains under -3, there's major value on a home Packers' squad off a loss, and a team that looks impressive on both sides of the ball despite a difficult schedule to open their season. The Saints still have a lot to prove but this is the week they get exposed for being a very average football team.
Green Bay -1 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)