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Against the Spread: 2011 NFL Picks: Week 4

New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars (+7)

This is another case in which the road team is laying points, but it still looks like a better choice than the home dog, no matter what I said before about the outperformance of home underdogs against the spread. Famous last words, right?

There's no other way to say this: Jacksonville really stinks. If not for the cheap touchdown before halftime during last week's monsoon in Carolina, the Jaguars would have done two straight weeks scoring only three points in each game. At first blush, the numbers show that the Jags' defense is pretty good against the pass. But I feel as though we have to throw out last week's number against the Panthers. Cam Newton, who had thrown for more than 400 yards in the first two games of the season, had only 158 passing yards in Week 3. Was that because Jacksonville was really good on defense rushing the passer, or because they were playing the game during torrential downpours?

The Saints aren't that spectacular on defense either, and I'm quite surprised they hung on and defeated the Texans last week. New Orleans allowed an average of 372 total yards through the first three games of the season and have only two turnovers. The difference between the Saints and Jags will be how the offenses perform. Blaine Gabbert is a rookie quarterback making his second start and first at home, having thrown for only 129 yards in Week 3. Drew Brees, on the other hand, is coming off a game in which he threw the ball for 354 yards. While the Jaguars have had trouble putting points on the board, the Saints have scored 30 or more points each week.

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton opened with New Orleans as 7-point favorites late Sunday, and the line almost immediately went up to 7.5 points before coming back to the original line; for a very brief time, New Orleans was favored by 6.5 points at the Hilton, although the Super Book (and virtually every other Vegas book) has the Saints laying 7 points now.

"We're all over New Orleans on this one, as I'm sure the public will be," PredictionMachine.com's Bessire says. "I'm surprised to see the Saints aren't giving more than a touchdown against Jacksonville. This is one of the top three teams in the league definitively against a team that will struggle to get even four wins this year. New Orleans is putting up big points this years against defenses that all rank in our top five efficiency rankings."

Pregame.com's Leonard doesn't expect the Saints to be up for the Jags, coming off games against Green Bay, Chicago and Houston. "Division games against Carolina and Tampa Bay are on deck," he says. "This is also the first of three straight games on the road. New Orleans offense has been excellent as expected, but the defense is allowing nearly 30 points per game. We don't like those numbers when laying seven points on the road."

The Pick: Saints -7. One stat that really jumped off the page at me: The Saints defense allowed the Packers and Bears to score every time the offense moved the ball into the red zone. The Jaguars, though, have had zero success in the red zone this year. During Week 3, Jacksonville didn't even get the ball into the red zone. That's one reason why I'm OK with laying a touchdown on a road favorite against a home dog with no red zone success. I think the Saints win this game by two scores, and Jacksonville can't stage a late-game comeback.

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