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NFL countdown: Saints might struggle to reach win total

This is the 29th in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Thursday season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

The Saints can’t catch a break in the playoffs, losing on the final play of the game in each of the past three seasons.

New Orleans has had better luck in the regular season, winning 11 or more games the past three years and going 6-1 last season in games decided by seven points or less. But handicapper Scott Kellen expects that luck in close games to run out this season and recommends a play on the Saints to go under their win total of 10½.

“These teams typically regress the next season,” said Kellen (@SixthSenseNFL), who also expects New Orleans’ 2019 turnover margin (+15) to decrease. “The Saints played only four games against teams above .500 last year and went 2-2. They have only two games this year against teams with projected wins lower than seven, so there are very few poor teams on the schedule.”

New Orleans is the -160 favorite to win its fourth consecutive NFC South title, but oddsmakers expect it to be challenged by Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (+180).

Besides two games each against Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Carolina, the Saints will play San Francisco and two tough divisions in the AFC West and NFC North.

“One of our wiseguys bet the Saints under, and I don’t blame him,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “Eleven wins is a lot, and they have a difficult schedule. There’s not too many easy games in that division.”

Drew Brees returns to lead a loaded offense in what might be the final season of his extraordinary career. The 41-year-old led the league last season in completion percentage (74.3) and had 27 touchdown passes and four interceptions in 11 games.

“Brees has lost his arm strength, but he still knows where the ball has to go,” Salmons said. “They still have a lot of good things going for them. They play solid defense, and Sean Payton is a top-five coach in the league.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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