How the Redskins Can Exploit the Saints Defensive Woes, and Where to Find Betting Value
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Saints, Redskins players
- The New Orleans Saints have struggled defensively after a breakout campaign as a unit in 2017.
- Here's how the Washington Redskins can exploit those weaknesses on Monday Night Football -- and where to find betting and fantasy football value.
I’ll be leveraging my experience as a fantasy analyst with a statistics background and a high school football coach to identify aspects of one matchup every week that you can take advantage of while setting your fantasy football lineups and/or placing bets on the upcoming slate.
For Week 5, we’re focusing on the upcoming Monday Night Football matchup between the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints — namely how Alex Smith and Co. can exploit the Saints’ defensive woes.
A Heavy Dose of Blitzing Worked in 2017, but Not 2018
The Saints defense is led by fourth-year defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who has tried to make his money by getting after the quarterback and forcing poor throws. New Orleans finished with the fourth-highest blitz percentage on third down last season, according to Pro Football Focus, going after the quarterback on 42% of dropbacks.
Blitzing so often means it’s likely that the Saints are playing a lot of man coverage on the back end. Sending more than four rushers makes it more difficult to cover the field with a zone.
Even if a zone coverage is called, it will play out like man coverage for the defensive backs, who are expecting a quick throw or a sack as a result of the added pressure.
The Saints applied a ton of pressure to opposing quarterbacks through two players in 2017: Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins. The two combined for 138 pressures per PFF (including playoffs), averaging 7.7 per game. But through four games in 2018, the pair is averaging only 6.3 pressures per game.
New Orleans’ secondary pass rushers are not playing well, either. Alex Okafor is down to just 1.5 pressures per game after averaging double that in 2017, and first-round pick Marcus Davenport has collected only five pressures through the first quarter of the season.
How Pass-Rushing Woes Translate to Poor Coverage
Because of the reduced pressure, the Saints have been getting torched in the secondary. They’re 29th in PFF coverage grades and are tied with the Buccaneers for the worst net yards allowed per pass attempt at 8.7 — the next closest team is all the way down at 7.8 NY/A.
Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was PFF’s No. 8-rated corner in coverage. But so far this season, he sits outside the top 50.
The Saints also lost slot corner Patrick Robinson, who was another top-10 coverage performer in 2017, after putting him on IR with an ankle injury. Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams both have coverage grades under 50, and have been abused all season.
Interestingly enough, 2017 was the only year in Allen’s tenure when the Saints have graded inside the top half of the league in coverage. In both 2015 and 2016, they finished bottom two.
This has been a pattern for Allen and the Saints.
Why This Is Alex Smith’s Ideal Matchup
Very few quarterbacks are better at beating you when you can’t apply pressure than Smith is. So far in 2018, he has an adjusted completion percentage of 85.5 when not under pressure, according to PFF.
Smith has had marks higher than 80% in that metric every season since 2014, and has been top six in the league every year over that span (minimum eight games).
Expect Lots of Scoring
Back in 2016, Matthew Freedman called the Mercedes-Benz Superdome the Coors Field of NFL DFS. Quarterbacks are still seeing a tremendous boost in fantasy production in New Orleans, with visitors averaging a Plus/Minus of 4.19 since 2014. Smith makes for a great fantasy play in all formats.
The Superdome has also payed off for bettors. Since 2014, the over has gone 21-12-1 — good for a 23.7% return on investment.
Monday night’s total is set at 52.5 as of writing (see live odds here), which makes the over appealing considering the quality of the Saints offense and the terrible matchup their defense has against Smith.