Both the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints lead their divisions, but there is little doubt that Monday night’s game in the Big Easy feels a lot more vital to New York’s playoffs hopes than to the Saints’.
The G-Men (6-4) have a tendency to go into the tank in the second half of the season under Tom Coughlin – Super Bowl season aside. And has that slide already begun?
New York is on a two-game losing streak, falling in San Francisco two weeks ago in which the Giants played pretty well but then mostly getting manhandled last Sunday at home by the Eagles, which essentially kept Philly’s season alive and allowed Dallas to tie the Giants for first in the NFC East.
The time is certainly now for New York, which follows this game with tough matchups at home on a short week against a well-rested Packers team next Sunday and then at the Cowboys on Dec. 11. In fact, the only “gimme” remaining on the New York Giants schedule is likely Week 15 at home against the sinking Redskins.
All is good right now for New Orleans (7-3), as it leads the NFC South by a game over Atlanta and already holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Falcons, although the two will play in New Orleans on Monday night in Week 16.
The Saints also are pretty healthy as they enter off their bye week. The Saints took control of the division with wins over Tampa Bay and those Falcons entering the bye.
Giants at Saints Betting Storylines
As usual, we will start with the injuries. Last week the Giants played without running back Ahmad Bradshaw and linebacker Michael Boley and both seem rather unlikely to get back for this one. Boley hasn’t even run yet to test his hamstring injury (as of this writing) and Bradshaw, who has missed three games with a fractured bone in his foot, hasn’t been cleared by doctors.
New York badly missed Bradshaw in its loss to the Eagles last week as the Giants rushed for only 29 yards. In addition, RB D.J. Ware, who had been backing up Brandon Jacobs, suffered a concussion in the game. He might be ready Monday, however.
New York left tackle Will Beatty and tight end Jake Ballard both were injured vs. Philly but it’s thought both will play. But the Giants lost another cornerback—the fifth to fall to a season-ending injury—as Michael Coe left the game with a shoulder injury that will require surgery and finish his season.
Rookie corner Prince Amukamara is expected to assume more responsibility with Coe out. The 2011 first-round pick made his NFL debut vs. Philly and picked off a pass. By the way, the Giants picked off three passes and still lost. How rare is that? Since 2007, teams with three picks in a game won nearly 90 percent of the time.
Coming off that bye, the Saints are in good shape. In fact, they will have their top four tailbacks–Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory – healthy for the first time all season. Look for Ivory to be the odd man out this week and the other three to all be used vs. the Giants.
Sproles is more the third-down type and Ingram is the short-yardage back. The Saints did lose blocking tight end David Thomas to season-ending IR this week. Linebacker Jon Vilma, who has missed the past two games with left knee soreness, will likely return Monday.
The Giants pass rush is probably going to determine Monday’s game. Yes, New York is tied for the NFL lead with 31 sacks. But since sacking Miami's Matt Moore five times on Oct. 30, the Giants have a total of five sacks in their last three games.
They only got to Vince Young once last week for a sack, and it was also their only recorded QB hit. Justin Tuck, the best player on that line, has battled neck and groin injuries for most of the season and has just half a sack in his last four games.
If Drew Brees has time to throw, forget about it. Brees leads the NFL in passing yards–he’s on pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season record--and is third in rating. At the Superdome, Brees has been playing like Aaron Rodgers, completing 75.7 percent of his passes for 1.223 yards, 13 touchdowns and three picks in four wins.
Almost all of his numbers are considerably worse on the road. Brees has thrown a TD in 37 straight games, second-longest streak in NFL history.
These two teams haven’t played since 2009, a 48-27 Saints win at the Superdome when Brees threw four TD passes and Eli Manning struggled mightily–that was the New Orleans native Manning’s first game in the Superdome. Coughlin is 0-2 vs. the Saints as the Giants’ head coach.
Giants at Saints NFL Odds and Trends
New Orleans is a seven-point favorite with the total at 50.5 on NFL odds – about a 60 percent lean on the Saints. The Giants are 4-5-1 ATS this year and 3-2 on road. Saints are 6-4 ATS and 4-0 at home. Over/under records: NYG 5-4-1, NO 5-5.
The Giants are 4-0 ATS in past four Monday games. But they have covered just once overall in past seven following a loss. The Saints are 4-1 ATS in past five vs. a team with a winning record. The ‘over’ is 5-1 in Giants’ past six vs. teams with a losing record. The ‘over’ is 4-0 ATS in Saints’ past four following a bye week.
Monday Night Football Predictions: Giants at Saints Picks
I happen to think there is only one team in the NFL right now that can win in New Orleans, and that’s the Packers. Brees and Co. are just a different team in that dome and are much healthier than the Giants. Plus, Coach Sean Payton had two weeks to game plan.
I would definitely jump on this line now at seven because it has been rising and might get to 7.5, just to be safe. But I like New Orleans something like 35-24 so give the points and take the ‘over’.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.