Bottom of the Pack
The New Orleans Saints were considered favorites to contend for the NFC South title before the season began, but inconsistent play has left them at the bottom of the division.
The Saints look to get back to .500 and pick up their first road win of the year Sunday when they visit the struggling Kansas City Chiefs, who are expected to have Larry Johnson back in the lineup.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Saints -5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Saints -5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
New Orleans (4-5) isn't out of the playoff picture yet, but it trails every team in the NFC South by at least two games and is three back of first-place Carolina.
The Saints will likely need to win at least five of their remaining seven games to have any hope of a postseason berth. That's a tall order for a team that has been unable to win back-to-back games all season.
"The expectation is to win these remaining seven games," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "There are seven games left and that's a positive thing. Our preparation has to be, and needs to be, on the Kansas City Chiefs. We aren't going to have someone walk through these doors that has the answer. The answer is in this building.
"We are what our record says we are: 4-5. Clearly we have put ourselves in a corner and we have to fight our way out."
Winning a game on the road would be a good place to start.
The Saints lost at Atlanta 34-20 last Sunday to fall to 0-4 on the road this season. They defeated San Diego 37-32 in London on Oct. 26, although they were considered the home team.
Drew Brees leads the NFL's top-ranked offense, which is gaining 422.2 yards per game. He's on pace to throw for a record-setting 5,309 yards, but has struggled on the road.
Brees has thrown for 1,290 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions in four road games compared to 1,695 yards, 13 TDs and four picks in five home contests.
"I really don't care'' about leading the league in passing, Brees said. "The fact that we haven't been able to put two good consistent games together in a row is frustrating.''
Last Sunday, Brees completed 31 of 58 passes for 422 yards, two touchdowns and a season-high three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He didn't get the Saints into the end zone until the fourth quarter with the Falcons ahead by 21.
With Reggie Bush still recovering from a knee injury, the Saints have relied on Brees to carry the offense. He could have better results at Kansas City (1-8), which has allowed an average of 316.0 passing yards in its last three games.
The Chiefs defense is also decimated by injuries, as linebackers Derrick Johnson and Pat Thomas and defensive end Brian Johnston are listed as out for this game.
Brees hasn't faced the Chiefs since he played for San Diego in 2005. In seven games against them, he's thrown for 1,847 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Kansas City is coming off another disheartening defeat, 20-19 at San Diego last Sunday that came a week after a 30-27 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
The Chiefs had a chance to win, as Tony Gonzalez's 3-yard touchdown catch pulled Kansas City within one with 23 seconds remaining. Coach Herm Edwards opted to go for the 2-point conversion, but Tyler Thigpen's pass intended for Gonzalez fell short.
"When you're 1-7, it isn't even a question of what you do. These guys deserve to win football games,'' Edwards said.
While the Chiefs have lost five straight since a 33-19 victory over Denver on Sept. 28 and have one victory in their last 18 games, the offense has been solid thanks to Thigpen's surprising play.
Thigpen started the season as Kansas City's third-string quarterback before injuries ended the seasons of Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle. Thigpen threw for 128 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in his first start, but has passed for 710 yards, six TDs and no picks in his last three.
Thigpen is expected to be joined this week in the backfield by Johnson, who returned Monday after being suspended by the NFL for a game for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The two-time Pro Bowl running back, who rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns in Kansas City's lone win, also missed the previous three games after being deactivated by the team.
"He's doing good. He's excited about getting going,'' Edwards said. "Our offense has changed a little bit. But he's going to be involved in it. He's excited about being back.''
The Chiefs and Saints haven't met since New Orleans' 27-20 home victory on Nov. 14, 2004. In their last matchup at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 21, 1997, Kansas City won 25-13.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 2-1 against the spread versus NEW ORLEANS since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 2-1 straight up against NEW ORLEANS since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
All games played at KANSAS CITY since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 1-0 against the spread versus NEW ORLEANS since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 1-0 straight up against NEW ORLEANS since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[PK] Martin Gramatica IR - Groin - 10/08/08
[DE] Charles Grant IR - Tricep - 11/03/08
[DT] Brian Young missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/26/08
[LB] Mark Simoneau IR - Back - 09/12/08
[WR] David Patten missed last game, "?" - Groin - 10/26/08
[DT] Montavious Stanley IR - Bicep - 10/20/08
[C] Jonathan Goodwin is downgraded to doubtful - Knee - 10/26/08
(!) [RB] Reggie Bush is expected to miss - Knee - 11/05/08
[CB] Jason David missed last game, "?" - Undisclosed - 10/26/08
[CB] Tracy Porter IR - Wrist - 10/07/08
[DE] Turk McBride is %27?%27 - Shoulder - 11/07/08
[DB] Brandon Flowers is upgraded to probable - Hamstring - 11/07/08
[S] DaJuan Morgan is %27?%27 - Leg - 11/07/08
(!) [RB] Larry Johnson expected to miss - Suspension - 11/02/08
[RB] Kolby Smith expected to miss rest of season - Knee - 11/03/08
[C] J.P. Darche IR - Knee - 10/30/08
(!) [QB] Brodie Croyle IR - Knee - 10/19/08
[S] Jarrad Page is %27?%27 - Groin - 11/07/08
[QB] Damon Huard IR - Hand - 10/22/08
[LB] Derrick Johnson is downgraded to doubtful - Hamstring - 11/07/08
[P] Dustin Colquitt is upgraded to probable - Groin - 11/07/08
[CB] Patrick Surtain is downgraded to doubtful - Quad - 11/07/08
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Posted: 11/12/08 3:26PM ET