(Or at least Sportsbook.com)
I don't live in a nation that permits gambling on sports. That being said, I often enjoy looking at the lines for sporting events, and making speculative predictions, without ever involving money.
For a variety of reasons, most of which aren't related to organized crime, I believe that gaming lines are often the most precise predictor of future sporting events. First, there are some exceptionally talented, experienced people setting these lines. Second, the lines are the result of a communal effort (many lines are actually set), and are subject to change. This makes them reflect public opinion, which is often pretty accurate.
I will be frequently sharing my gambling picks for the upcoming season. All picks are purely speculative and for entertainment purposes only. I will not be wagering on these picks, and neither should you.
That being said, let's discuss what Las Vegas sees in the Saints' futures:
- The over-under of wins for the Saints is 9, tied with Carolina for tops in the NFC South. At the start of camp, the Falcons were not on the board, but one may assume that they would be around 9 with Michael Vick and 7 without him. The Tampa Bucs are last in the South, with 7 projected wins. In other words, the gap between the top and bottom of the NFC South is pretty narrow. The Bucs, Falcons and Panthers will benefit from having easier schedules than the Saints, which could certainly make up for any disparities in talent. Make no mistake, even though the Saints enter the season as the favorites, the NFC South is wide-open.
- The top wins-over-under in the NFC is the Bears at 10. There are several teams, including the Saints, whose number is set at 9. In the AFC, the Patriots (11.5) are tops, followed by the Colts (10.5). Hence, the book doesn't see a truly dominant team in either conference (i.e. 14 wins).
- The Saints are 6-1 to win the NFC, again tied for second behind the Bears (9-2). They are 15-1 to win the Superbowl, which is actually tied with the Bears for tops in the NFC.
- Individually, Drew Brees enters the season as a 10-1 shot to win the MVP trophy, which trails only Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson (5-1) and Tom Brady (6-1). Reggie Bush is ranked 15-1 to win the same trophy, which is the same as Steve Smith and Donovan McNabb, and is fourth among running backs, behind Tomlinson, Larry Johnson (10-1) and Shaun Alexander (12-1). Deuce McAllister is unranked. Personally, I think Brees' line is pretty fair; Bush seems like he's very overrated, perhaps because he is a trendy pick. Call me crazy, but with all of the talent on the Saints' roster I just don't see Reggie scoring enough touchdowns to challenge for the MVP. Sure, he can score them in a variety of ways, but he's competing with Deuce for carries and a host of excellent receivers for catches. He's going to be good, and his successes will be well-publicized, but the fourth-best back in the game? Better than Frank Gore and Steven Jackson (20-1)? I just don't see it.
- Of all the listed players, Robert Meachem is given the second-worst odds of winning the Rookie of the Year, 20-1. Only Brian Leonard (25-1) is a bigger long-shot. Again, I think this is pretty fair; with the level of talent on the Saints' offense, a good season for Meachem would probably be 50 catches. Factor in his knee troubles and the fact that Calvin Johnson, Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson are his main competition, and it's difficult to imagine Meachem winning the ROY.