Coming off one of the worst losses of the NFL season, I’m doubling down on the Saints as my Super Bowl champion this season.
After all, what’s one rough week among friends, am I right?
A brutal week can only be made up for my renewed intensity the next, which is why the Saints must pick up their level of play after an astounding 26-9 loss to lowly Atlanta, which had come in with the inverse record of New Orleans’ 7-1, having won only once. It was a major upset that head coach Dan Quinn wasn’t fired prior to the Falcons’ bye week, but patience resulted in an upset as a two-touchdown underdog.
Atlanta won despite missing its top corner, Desmond Trufant, to a toe injury, which piled on to the woes of a secondary that had been torched throughout the entirety of its early schedule after losing safeties Keanu Neal and later Johnathan Cyprien for the season. They harassed Drew Brees, who had trouble identifying blitzes and was sacked time after time. Red-zone trips fizzled out and resulted in field goal. New Orleans’ next touchdown will be its first coming out of its bye week.
The Saints were shut down despite Brees getting additional rest for a thumb injury he’d already come back from before the week off, having thrown for nearly 380 yards and three scores in a rout of Arizona. The team welcomed top back Alvin Kamara, receiver Tre’Quan Smith and tight end Jared Cook back from absences too, so perhaps it was rust that contributed to New Orleans’ unexpected demise. But for the loss to be shelved into aberration category, a strong response is required both this week in Tampa Bay and going forward.
Oddsmakers didn’t overreact to the Saints’ loss. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook kept New Orleans as a 9-2 Super Bowl choice, the same figure that was available the week prior, and only shifted their NFC title odds from +175 to +180. The 49ers are still +250 to win the NFC after losing for the first time against Seattle, which remains at 10-1.
The team that managed to overcome Brees’ absence thanks to the steady play of Teddy Bridgewater, the running of backup Latavius Murray and an improved defense can still be counted on to come through after losing focus for one disappointing season. They just can’t let the loss linger, which makes divisional games against the Bucs, Panthers and a rematch with the Falcons over the next three weeks so critical.
The Saints’ coaching staff will be tasked with putting their team in position to beat the teams they’re supposed to know best. Sean Payton has been one of the NFL’s best for over a decade. He’ll get his group in order.
New Orleans was unfairly denied a Super Bowl trip last season due to a botched non-call in the NFC Championship. Righting that wrong will remain a driving force that will help bury Week 10’s disappointing, leaving it as a bump in the road. The Saints are a 5.5-point favorite in Tampa Bay this week and while I’m not promising they cover, I see them avoiding a losing streak by beating the Bucs. Here are six games I am providing picks for to bounce back in Week 11.
Cardinals at 49ers -11.5: San Francisco missed tight end George Kittle more than anticipated and wasted opportunities through Jimmy Garoppolo’s erratic play on Monday night, so it seeks a rebound as well. Arizona got Christian Kirk back last week and saw his blazing speed lead to three touchdowns, but that still wasn’t enough to win in Tampa. The Cards fell 28-25 in Week 9 Thursday game on Halloween night and have covered in four of their five road games.
The Niners have to get over a really tough loss on a short week, so this is a spot where they’re likely to rally for a win while failing to come through as a double-digit favorite. CARDINALS
Jets at Redskins -1: Jamal Adams got over hearing his name in trade talks at the deadline and delivered one of the season’s best defensive plays to help Jets fans hold bragging rights over their Giants’ counterparts throughout the Tri-state area for the foreseeable future.
He’s liable to swing this game too, taking advantage of raw ‘Skins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who will get a long leash as the starter the rest of the way. Given his tendency to throw the ball to the opposing team, not having to look over his shoulder will serve him well. More mistakes are coming. JETS
Cowboys at Lions (No line): Matthew Stafford was shelved by the Lions late last week and Jeff Driskel got the call against the Bears, so that game went as you would probably expect. Stafford’s status is in doubt here, so riding the Cowboys to rebound after a disappointing home loss to the Vikings is really the only play. With a trip to New England on deck next week this is a must-win, whether Stafford plays or not. COWBOYS
Jaguars at Colts -3: Nick Foles is likely to start for Jacksonville, returning after breaking his collarbone in his Jags debut in Week 1, setting off Minshew mania. Indianapolis hopes to have Jacoby Brissett back considering Brian Hoyer’s disappointing performance in an awful home loss to the Dolphins, so be advised that there are a lot of variables in play here.
My inclination is that last week’s loss to Miami will haunt Indy into this one, so look for the Jags to play spoiler behind Foles and RB Leonard Fournette in winning outright. JAGUARS
Falcons at Panthers -5.5: Kyle Allen nearly took down the Packers in snowy Lambeau last week by coming through with multiple clutch throws on a final drive that ended with Christian McCaffrey being stopped just short of crossing the goal line on the game’s final play. He’s proving that he’s a legitimate NFL starter and will handle business against the fluky Falcons. PANTHERS
Bills -5.5 at Dolphins: Miami seeks its third win in a row behind a group that has really impressed with its determination over the past few weeks. Buffalo can’t afford to let the Dolphins hang around and should have learned that lesson considering it trailed to begin the fourth quarter when the teams met in Week 7.
The Bills were coming off a bye and perhaps started slowly as a result. Expect a double-digit win in South Florida in a must-win. BILLS
Last week: 0-6