Saints good, lucky enough for 16-0 regular season

A week ago, Drew Brees was a surgeon, precisely cutting up one of the NFL’s most respected defenses. On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints quarterback was a magician, escaping in a matter of seconds from a straitjacket while being attacked by a swarm of bees.

Brees gets only partial credit for the Saints’ improbable 33-30 overtime victory over the Washington Redskins. He got a lot of help, some of it in the form of charity from the Redskins.

But the point is, it’s now clear that Brees and the Saints are good enough and lucky enough to go 16-0 in the regular season.

Six days after demoralizing the New England Patriots, the Saints faced a situation of near-certain defeat. It was bound to happen sometime, and they somehow survived it.

”Could you imagine the Super Bowl,” MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said, ”if the Colts and Saints both get there undefeated?”

Imagine the historic significance of that game. Imagine the wagering intrigue, and all the proposition bets that are possible.

It’s OK to fantasize occasionally. Some guys like to visit strip clubs to do it. A dancer often will give you her number, but she rarely goes home with you.

In this case, a Super Bowl featuring Brees, Peyton Manning and two unbeaten teams is probably a tease, too. But the odds are getting a little more realistic.

The chances also are increasing that both 12-0 teams will be so far ahead of the pack that they will rest key starters in Week 17 and lose a game. At the least, Indianapolis almost is sure to own home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and New Orleans is close to securing it in the NFC.

The games involving the Colts and Saints attracted an abundance of betting action as Las Vegas sports books recorded a winning Week 13, one of the best Sundays of the season for the books.

The Colts were bet from 7- to 6-point home favorites in a 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Most bettors sided with the Titans in a game that turned into a major decision for the books.

”We went down to 61/2 and 6, and they were still taking the points with the Titans,” Rood said.

Tennessee took its best shot and came up short. Twice in the second half, the Titans went for it on fourth down deep in Colts territory — once from the 2-yard line — and failed both times.

The Saints were 81/2-point road favorites over the Redskins, who led 30-23 when Shaun Suisham shanked a 23-yard field-goal attempt with 1:52 remaining. Brees, who passed for 419 yards, hit Robert Meachem for a 53-yard touchdown 33 seconds later.

“It was all sharp money on the Redskins and all public money on the Saints,” Rood said. ”I told the guys here, ‘Hey, (terrible) teams find a way to lose in the fourth quarter.’ ”

But some bad teams — Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis — also found ways to cover the spread.

The Browns, 131/2-point home underdogs, helped the books and hurt the betting public by covering in a 30-23 loss to San Diego.

”We took just a ton of money on the Chargers,” said Rood, who was pleased when the Chargers took a 30-14 lead with four minutes left and quickly quit playing.

The Lions scored with 1:36 left to get a back-door cover at Cincinnati, and the Patriots blew a 14-0 lead in a 22-21 loss at Miami, prompting Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello to say, ”We had two real big decisions, and we got those two.”

Jacksonville and Seattle closed as slight home underdogs, and each won outright, so the ‘dogs went 10-4 against the spread Sunday. The real stunner was Oakland’s 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who closed as 15-point home favorites. The Raiders paid off at plus-700 to win straight up, but who would make that crazy wager?

”We actually had people who were betting the Raiders on the money line,” said Jay Kornegay, Las Vegas Hilton sports book director.

Not as surprising was Kurt Warner leading the Arizona Cardinals, 31/2-point home underdogs, to a 30-17 upset of Minnesota.

The Vikings dropped to 10-2, two games behind the Saints in the NFC. It’s more likely now that New Orleans and Indianapolis will reach the Super Bowl, but it’s still a fantasy that both will get there undefeated.

Contact sports betting reporter and columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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