A 0-4 start to the season will get the gears of front-office folk spinning, especially if you’re the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints, who remain winless following a 28-27 loss to Green Bay Sunday, are more than likely out of the postseason picture and playing for nothing but pride in the final three months of the schedule.
The “Bountygate” scandal has obviously taken its toll on the team and serves as a justifiable excuse to pack it up and start looking ahead to 2013, even though the calendar just flipped to October. New Orleans can wash its hands of this year, go through the motions, get a high draft pick and come back next season with head coach Sean Payton fresh off suspension.
Who would blame the Saints?
That’s not the way oddsmakers see it. They see plenty of fight left in the Big Easy, which is why New Orleans is a 4-point home favorite versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 5. Books actually opened with the Saints as field-goal faves but early money pushed the spread off the key number.
Granted, San Diego has a bit of a paper 3-1 record, with wins coming against Tennessee, Oakland and Kansas City – three of the worst teams in the NFL. The Chargers were exposed and outclassed in their lone meeting with a contending team, losing 27-3 to the Atlanta Falcons as 3-point home favorites two weeks ago.
The Saints are far from contenders and could be eyeing the bye week that follows the San Diego game like a fat kid stares down a cake. New Orleans needs time to catch its breath and recover, or decide to pull the plug on the season.
Here are some other spread making football bettors go “hmmm…” heading into the weekend:
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (-3, 44)
Suddenly, we’re not so high on the Seattle Seahawks.
After thumping the Dallas Cowboys and shocking the Packers on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks laid an egg in St. Louis last weekend. Despite having some new faces on the field and the sidelines, Seattle remains a home-away team and can’t seem to get the job done without the infamous 12th man ringing in opponents’ ears.
Carolina has been a favorite of sharp bettors early in the season. The Panthers could be the most dangerous 1-3 team in the NFL and, outside of a blowout loss to the New York Giants, have been in the mix during their three other games.
While the spread isn't surprising, it does leave football bettors a lot to ponder as we trudge toward Sunday.
UCLA Bruins at Cal Golden Bears (+3, 54)
The Bruins are giving only a field goal to their state rivals, despite the fact that Cal has one win on the year - over an FCS program.
The Golden Bears, 1-4, are coming off a 27-17 loss to Arizona State and the chair in Jeff Tedford’s office is starting to resemble the Human Torch’s La-Z-Boy. Cal has crumbled down the stretch, giving up 37 percent of its 151 total points against in the fourth quarter, and will have a tough time slowing down the Bruins’ fourth-ranked offense no matter what frame it is.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Missouri Tigers (-6.5, 45.5)
A 1-3 start to the schedule has erased the Commodores from the minds of most bettors. Vanderbilt was the sleeper of all sleepers heading into the season, bringing back a surplus of talent on both sides of the ball.
However, a tough opening slate that featured three teams currently ranked in the Top 25 has oddsmakers discounting Vandy heading into Week 5’s showdown in Missouri. Vanderbilt had a bye week to put those losses in the rearview but hasn't fared well following the week off, going just 2-6 SU off the bye the past 10 seasons. (They had two seasons during that stretch without a bye.)
The Tigers are almost giving a touchdown despite being tagged as 1.5-point dogs at Central Florida last weekend. Missouri’s offense is stumbling, not giving James Franklin - who is still not 100 percent - time to hit his receivers. Franklin was sacked five times versus UCF.