New Orleans (+1.5) @ Arizona
Power rankings: New Orleans 21, Arizona 26
Spread breakdown: The line is up to 2.5. It moved away from the model, but isn't hitting 3.
Game breakdown: The Saints are remaining silent on who their starting quarterback will be -- Jameis Winston didn't receive an injury designation, but the rumors are that Andy Dalton will start again. This makes sense to me given that this is a Thursday Night game -- sitting Winston gives him an additional 10 days as he continues to recover from an ankle/back injury. From a betting standpoint, it didn't make a big difference either way as there isn't a huge difference between the two. In fact, Dalton has been the better quarterback this year -- he has a PFF grade of 82.3 while completing 63.1% of his passes and gaining 7.0 yards per attempt. They'll be up against a Cardinals defense that has struggled all season -- they have some talent up front between DT Zach Allen and past-his-prime-but-still-good JJ Watt, but virtually every other starter has struggled. This includes CB Byron Murphy and S Budda Baker -- two players who have been far more dependable in the past. The Cardinals defense is 24th in pass defense DVOA, but thanks to some help along the interior they are 11th in DVOA against the run. The issues in the Cardinals secondary will make Dalton's job a little easier, as the Saints weapons continue to be banged up -- Mike Thomas (toe) and Jarvis Landry (ankle) but remain out, but Chris Olave (concussion) will return. The Saints offensive line, which is already below average, will be without LG Adrus Peat (chest) -- though this could be a positive for the Saints, Peat has played so poorly that I can't help but wonder if he's playing through an injury. The Cardinals have been the second most blitz-heavy team in the NFL this season, but they still don't generate a ton of pressure due to their lack of talent along the edge. RT Ryan Ramczyk and LT James Hurst have a steady advantage there, which should give Dalton enough time to operate.
Kyler Murray's poor season has led to a struggling Cardinals offense -- landing them at 26th in Football Outsider's DVOA rankings. There is some help coming, however, as DeAndre Hopkins is officially back after serving a 6 game suspension for roids. However, they also lost Marquise Brown due to a foot injury, which will sideline him at least a month. It also could take Hopkins some time to get back up and running -- when you're suspended, you aren't allowed at the team facilities at all, meaning Hopkins hasn't been able to practice with Arizona until this week. Given that it's a Thursday Night game, those practices are extremely limited compared to a normal week. The Cardinals offensive line has been decent this season, but they'll be without C Rodney Hudson (knee), which forces them to play Sean Harlow. Harlow is consistently beaten whenever he is called into action -- last week was no exception, when he surrendered 6 pressures and committed a penalty. They'll also be without LG Justin Pugh (knee). This leaves Arizona with weaknesses along the interior, which a strong defensive line that the Saints employ would normally be able to exploit, but they've way underperformed relative to their talent. The Cardinals tackles vs the Saints edge rushers should be an even matchup -- there's talent on both sides there -- with the interior being a bit of a wildcard. The Saints corners have been universally bad this season and are without Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), although a strong safety and linebacking tandem does help solidify things. It's possible the Saints pass rush wakes up and wins consistently, but I could also see Hopkins and Rondale Moore consistently winning against the Saints corners.
Zach Ertz u45.5 receiving yards -110 (FanDuel): As mentioned above, the strength of the Saints passing defense is their linebackers and safeties, who will primarily be responsible for covering Ertz. The Saints have the #1 DVOA against tight ends this season, surrendering just 29.7 yards per game to the position. Further, most projections have Ertz right around this number. When the projections (which are mean based and skew higher) match the line, take the under.