The New Orleans Saints have covered the spread in 14 straight home games. That's pretty amazing.
In most of those games, they've had to cover a big number. Coming into this week, New Orleans has been favored at home by a field goal or less only two times in the last four seasons, according to R.J. Bell at Pregame.com.
The odds of New Orleans covering the spread in 14 straight home games? How about 16,383 to 1, according to Bell.
Now you get a sense of what the 49ers are up against this week.
San Francisco is a 3-point underdog at the Superdome this week, and the 49ers need to steal a game like this. At times San Francisco has looked like a legitimate contender, but since Week 1 they're 0-3 against the three best teams they've played (Seahawks, Colts, Panthers – the latter two at home). The 49ers are two-and-a-half games behind Seattle in the NFC West, and with any more losses it might not matter if they can beat the Seahawks in the rematch at San Francisco. And everyone realizes how good Seattle is at home, when it comes to thinking about possible playoff matchups.
New Orleans has some urgency too. The Saints are aware the Panthers are just one game back in the NFC South and got a win against these 49ers last week. At this point I need to see someone beat the Saints at the Superdome before I believe it. I'll take the Saints.
Here are the rest of this week's picks:
Indianapolis (-3) over Tennessee (picked earlier): Doesn't really matter since there was a push, but wow, the Colts can look absolutely wretched and incredible all within the same three-hour stretch.
Chicago (-3) over Baltimore: Nice win by the Ravens last week against Cincinnati, but they gained just 189 yards on 71 plays. Hard to feel good about them going forward.
Cincinnati (-5.5) over Cleveland: The Bengals know that if they're ever going to win the AFC North, this is the game. If the Browns win they're just a half-game back and own the tiebreaker. Cincinnati understands the situation.
Washington (+3.5) over Philadelphia: The Eagles home/road splits (0-4 at home, 5-1 on the road) are really weird.
Pittsburgh (+2) over Detroit: A classic letdown spot for the Lions.
Atlanta (-1) over Tampa Bay: I don't feel great about taking the Falcons over anyone right now, especially on the road, but there might be a Tampa Bay letdown now that 0-16 is officially off the table.
Jacksonville (+7) over Arizona: The Cardinals are 1-3 on the road with a very late 13-10 win over Tampa Bay. Can't lay a touchdown with them, even against the Jaguars.
Houston (-7) over Oakland: Even if Terrelle Pryor plays for Oakland, his knee will affect him. And if he doesn't play or leaves early, it might get ugly.
San Diego (-1) at Miami: The Dolphins can't run the ball or protect their quarterback, and are dealing with a massive distraction. Other than that, it's going well.
Green Bay (+5) over N.Y. Giants: The Giants will find a way to keep this one close.
Seattle (-12) over Minnesota: It appears receiver Percy Harvin will make his Seahawks debut on Sunday. Like 8-1 Seattle needed a midseason boost.
Kansas City (+8.5) over Denver: I was going to pick the Broncos, but NFL Films' Greg Cosell made a great case that the Chiefs' defense is the perfect matchup for the Broncos' offense (keep an eye out for his analysis on the game on Saturday on Shutdown Corner).
Carolina (-2.5) over New England: I wonder how the Panthers will handle success, but the defense is probably the best in the NFL and the Panthers crowd will be charged up for the biggest home game in many years.
Last week: 7-7
Season to date: 58-89-2
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