Saints favored to march to Super Bowl victory

It’s one thing to kick around a tomato can. Sticking an ugly black eye on a heavyweight contender, as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints did Sunday, is a legitimate accomplishment.

The Saints picked up a signature victory — the most impressive one any NFL team can claim this season — by beating up the New York Giants, 48-27.

Two days ago, there was plenty of evidence available to argue the Giants’ case as the league’s elite team. But after Brees passed for four scores in a ridiculously easy victory, let’s make a slight change at the top.

New Orleans is the favorite to win the Super Bowl. That statement doesn’t sound right, but it clearly passes the eye test after six weeks.

”Unless something drastic happens like Brees gets hurt, I can’t see the Saints not being the favorite from here on out,” MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said.

MGM Mirage posts the Saints at 5-2 odds, followed by Minnesota (3-1), New England (7-2), the Giants (4-1) and Indianapolis (6-1).

”I think the Vikings probably should be about 6-1 or 7-1, but the public is betting them left and right,” Rood said.

Public opinion was more or less split on the Giants-Saints matchup, but the decision on the field was unanimous. New York’s defense ranked No. 1 on paper, and Brees promptly shredded it by passing for 369 yards and hitting Jeremy Shockey, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and Marques Colston for touchdowns.

The Saints were favored by 3 to 31/2 points at home in the Superdome. The Giants swaggered in as the NFL’s toughest road team. The showdown was over before noon.

New Orleans, 5-0 straight up and against the spread, has won each game by 14 points or more. Brees is supported by multitalented running backs, and the defense has been greatly upgraded by new coordinator Gregg Williams.

For those reasons, I did predict on these pages Aug. 16 that the Saints would top nine regular-season wins. That bet should be won sometime around Thanksgiving.

But I also bet the Giants on Sunday, mostly because anytime the Giants are getting points, especially a field goal or more, it’s hard to say no.

And one week after the Oakland Raiders were buried here, they rose from the dead and stunned Philadelphia 13-9 as 141/2-point home underdogs. The Eagles’ effort was inexcusable.

While the Raiders fooled us, it’s only temporary. A couple other bad teams are even worse than we thought.

Tennessee flopped to 0-6, losing 59-0 in a snowball fight in New England. The Patriots, 91/2-point favorites, rolled as Tom Brady connected on 29 of 34 passes for 380 yards and six touchdowns, including five in the second quarter when the Titans quit.

”It almost looks like an expansion team at this point,” Rood said of Tennessee. ”It’s truly unbelievable.”

The head of Washington coach Jim Zorn needs to roll after the Redskins were upset 14-6 by previously winless Kansas City. The Chiefs were 61/2-point underdogs, and some sharp money was misspent on the other side.

”We got a lot of late Washington money,” Rood said. ”I watched every down of that game. The money made me watch it. That was our game of the day from a financial standpoint.”

The dramatic ending of the day came in Minnesota’s 33-31 victory over Baltimore. The Ravens were 3-point underdogs, so they cashed tickets. But after Brett Favre and Joe Flacco traded haymakers, the outcome was decided by a skinny, unknown kicker, Steve Hauschka, who missed a 44-yard field goal attempt on the last play.

The Vikings (6-0) opened as 4-point underdogs at Pittsburgh in what should be the marquee matchup of Week 7.

Speaking of the Steelers, they disappointed their betting backers yet again. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 27-14 but failed to cover as a 14-point favorite, falling to 1-5 against the spread.

Underdogs are 8-5 against the spread in Week 6. Arizona, Buffalo, Houston, Kansas City and Oakland won outright as ‘dogs.

The Denver Broncos, 5-0 straight up and against the spread, are 31/2-point underdogs at San Diego tonight. Joseph D’Amico, a handicapper for Allamericansports.info, said to take the Broncos and the points.

The Saints, who face Miami, Atlanta, Carolina, St. Louis and Tampa Bay the next five weeks, won’t be underdogs anytime soon.

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