Patriots (PK) and first half under 24 One thing about Super Bowls is they don't tend to start with a bang.
Correlated Saints-Eagles parlay
Saints +140 at Eagles/under 54
Home-field advantage and past playoff experience are historically two of the more significant factors that can help determine the outcome of NFL playoff games. Matchups in which one team has both elements in its favor usually means bad news for the opposition (last year’s Colts-Ravens wild-card tilt standing as a prime example). It’s the games in which the advantages are split that carry the most intrigue. Thus something will have to give when the road-challenged Saints travel to Philadelphia for a wild-card game vs. the playoff-newbie Eagles on Saturday night.
Before breaking down why the Saints and the under are the right plays, it’s an opportune time to mention that a good starting point for bettors sketching out NFL playoff parlays is to look for matchups with side/total correlation. Correlated parlays are the only type of exotic bets with the potential to be positive-expectation wagers. And they become even more valuable this time of year, when each team has a full body of work that can be used to gauge how it can be expected to perform in a specific matchup.
In the case of Saints-Eagles, the numbers are revealing. In the regular season, New Orleans boasted a +110 point differential (seventh in the league), averaged 5.9 yards per play on offense (tied for fifth), allowed 5.2 yards per play on defense (tied for 10th) and ranked fourth in DVOA, Football Outsiders’ metric for overall team efficiency. Philadelphia, conversely, finished with a +60 point differential (ninth in the league), averaged 6.3 yards per play on offense (second), allowed 5.5 yards per play on defense (tied for 20th) and ranked eighth in DVOA.
With the exception of offensive yards per play, the Saints hold the edge in every major category. It’s their sustained troubles on the road – particularly down the stretch – that ‘s given way to their underdog status in this game (as well as their place in it). There’s no doubt Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense do not perform at nearly the same level on the road as in the Superdome. Defense, however, travels.
The Saints D has been one of the NFL’s best all year, ranking fourth in scoring (19 points per game), fourth in total yards (305.7 per game), fourth in sacks (49) and ninth in opponents third-down conversion percentage (34.7). While the Saints went just 3-5 on the road, two of those losses (New England and Carolina) came on the final play – and against Super Bowl contenders, no less – and another one (Jets) was decided by one score. They allowed an average of 22.4 points in eight road games and recorded 23 sacks while going 7-1 to the under. In short, the Saints outperformed their record on the road, and win or lose, defense was the name of the game.
All signs point to the Saints defense keeping this game close and relatively low-scoring. That puts the onus squarely on the Eagles. Led by Nick Foles, Philadelphia steamed to a 7-1 second half. The key to the surge were fast starts, as the Eagles jumped to double-digit leads by the second quarter in six of those games. The only times they didn’t were a Week 14 win over the Lions in a blizzard and a Week 15 loss to the Vikings.
This is where experience enters the equation. It may not be quantifiable, but playoff experience – particularly for quarterbacks and head coaches – absolutely matters when the intensity is ratcheted up and every play and decision is magnified. How is Foles going to respond if he faces an early deficit? Can the Eagles’ offensive line protect their quarterback after finishing the year ranked 28th in opponents sack percentage (8.47) and allowing at least four sacks in three of their last five games? Will Chip Kelly be able to match wits with Sean Payton, one of the NFL’s most seasoned and crafty playoff minds? Can a weak Philly pass defense be counted on to stop Brees with the game on the line?
The Eagles may be home and the Saints may be an inferior team on the road. But the Eagles are accustomed to dictating tempo and playing with the lead, neither of which is a given in this matchup. Coupled with the track record of the Saints defense and pass rush, it’s tough to envision anything but a tight game in the fourth. Philly was lucky to escape Dallas last week, and that was with Jason Garrett and Kyle Orton pulling the strings for the Cowboys. Similar to the playoff themselves, Payton, Brees and the Saints are a completely different animal.
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