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Lions vs. Saints

NFL Wild Card Playoff Pick

1/7/12

In the 2nd game of Saturday's Wild Card playoff action, the Detroit Lions, behind the arm of Matthew Stafford, head into New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the high powered offense of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints opened as a hefty -9.5 point favorite and the betting action thus far has favored the Saints, pushing the number to as high as -11. The posted total is 58.5. Odds courtesy of Betonline.

We mentioned the arm of Matthew Stafford above, and for good reason. The way we see it, that would be the Lions only chance for an upset here. The Lions come into this game +11 in turnover margin, the best of all wildcard teams. Grab a couple of turnovers, ride the arm of Stafford and who knows. The Lions can certainly move the ball.

The positives seem to end with Stafford and the 4th ranked passing game. The Lions have no running game, ranking 29th in the NFL at an average of 95 yards per game. Defensively they rank 24th against the run and 22nd against the pass. Meanwhile, the Saints get it done on offense with the #1 ranked passing offense and the #6 ranked running game. The complete package offensively. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints were 12th against the run. Against the pass, the Saints were 30th, but that stat may be a bit misleading. Remember, the Saints had frequent large leads leaving teams no option but to throw the ball to catch up.

If you take a look at full season yards per point numbers, they wouldn't seem to favor the Saints by a large margin. Both teams with a very good 13 on offense while the Saints get the edge with a 17 defensively, compared to 15 for the Lions. However, when you look at the Saints at home and the Lions on the road, we get a different picture. The Lions, despite going 5-3 on the road, had an offensive yards per point number of 14 and a very poor defensive number of 13.7. The Lions gave up 28 points per game on the road. The Saints at home have a 12 offensively and a 21 defensively. Superb. They outscored opponents 41-17 at home on their way to an 8-0 record.

The Saints enter as perhaps the most dangerous team in the playoffs this year. They won their last 8 games, most in dominating fashion, and just as importantly, went 8-0 against the spread, beating the spread by 88.5 points in those 8 games. The Lions on the other hand, gained public support after a 5-0 start, but went just 4-4 down the stretch and went just 2-6 against the number. The public tends to hold onto their love affairs with teams a bit too long. You can see what happened to Lions backers down the stretch.

The Lions had a chance to lock up the #5 seed last week by beating a Green Bay team that was resting just about all of it's key starters, including QB Aaron Rodgers. Instead, they lost a 45-41 shootout while giving up 480 passing yards and 6 touchdowns to Matt Flynn and the Packers bench. How in the world could anyone expect the Lions to be able to go into New Orleans and come out on top? Unlike the Packers, the Saints have a defense too!

Look, you don't bet on NFL teams because you think they can "hang" within the number. When you bet on an NFL underdog, you do so because you think they have a very good chance to win the game outright, making the points a bonus. Well, we put the Lions chances at close to zero here for a straight up win. Especially when you take into account that the Saints were bounced from the playoffs in this very same round a year ago, by the Seahawks, one year removed from winning the Super Bowl. Can't see this Saints team allowing that to happen again.

For us, it has to be the Saints or pass here. Those that took the Saints early at -9.5 had the right idea. They don't call them sharp for nothing. It gets a little more dicey laying -10 and up, and it's doubtful we'll see this number drop back down. But the Saints get the nod here. While the Packers were attracting the attention of the football world with their quest for an undefeated season, the Saints were slipping under the radar. This Saints team enters the playoffs scorching hot and likely headed for the NFC title game. Saints -10.5

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