Monday Night Football returns with the traditional Week 1 Double Header, and it all kicks off with a tasty clash between NFC Championship runners-up the New Orleans Saints and the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans.
Coming off the heartbreak of the blown pass interference call that cost them a place in the Super Bowl, the Saints have been a model of stability this offseason. The only major moving parts being a swap of Mark Ingram for Latavius Murray in the backfield and Jared Cook arriving to offer some athleticism at Tight End.
The Texans, on the other hand, have had a summer of turmoil, with a failed attempt to hire a GM, the loss of starting running back Lamar Miller for the season to an ACL injury and the whirlwind back-to-back trades of Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle and Laremy Tunsil from the Miami Dolphins.
Both Teams to Score 30 Points – 5/1
On the face of it, this might seem like a mismatch given that the Saints are an improving defence coming off an NFC Championship appearance and Texans QB Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times last season, let’s take a look a closer look.
With marquee weapons Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas returning to help Drew Brees we know the Saints can rack up scores, and the departure of Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans ‘D’ should give Brees even longer to pick his targets.
On the other side, this Saints team gave up 48 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 last season – with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB – and the Texans have weapons of their own in DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson, along with the freshly-acquired Laremy Tunsil to help protect Watson at QB.
The firepower is there for both teams to score early and often, and a shootout is easy to justify.
Jump on this tasty 5/1 and sit back with some popcorn on Monday night.
Total Match Points Over 52.5 – 9/10
I can understand if you find it a bit hard to give the Texans 30+ points in this matchup, especially on the road at the Superdome.
Bill O’Brien has traditionally found it tough in Week 1, and there are still a number of new pieces in Johnson, Tunsil, Stills and running back Carlos Hyde that you’d like to see bed in successfully before you start believing in this Texans offence.
You can believe that both teams are vulnerable to the pass though, as the Saints and Texans gave up the fourth and fifth-most passing yards per game in the NFL last season respectively. Even if you’re feeling a bit more conservative, that makes it’s very hard to ignore the Over 52.5 Match points market.
First Touchdown Scorer: Michael Thomas – 13/2
Given the Texans vulnerable secondary and diminished pass rush, you can expect Drew Brees to throw it early and often against a vulnerable Texans secondary – and his go-to ball-catcher is the target-monster Michael Thomas.
The fourth-year wide receiver caught a league-leading 125 passes last season, with a franchise-record 16 of those coming in Week 1 last season against the Bucs. That was the most by any NFL player in a single game in the 2018 season.
On top of those video game numbers, six of his nine TD catches last year came at home in the Superdome.
You can back him with confidence to be the First Touchdown Scorer at odds of 13/2, safe in the knowledge that he’s Brees’ go-to guy.
* All odds correct at time of posting.