Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET
Is there a more important position in sports than starting NFL quarterback?
Probably not. Yet here we are, focusing on a very fascinating predicament that has the Denver Broncos on track to become the first team since the 1965 Baltimore Colts to start a non-QB under center.
When running back Tom Matte served as QB1 for a pair of starting assignments that year (one in regular season, one in postseason), there was predictably a lot of rushing in the game plan and — most important from an over/under betting perspective — not a lot of scoring. In fact, the Colts ran the ball a whopping 47 times (!) in each of those contests. Additionally, only 60 points total resulted from the two.
But of course, that’s the 1960’s. The Colts haven’t even represented Baltimore since the 1980’s. And Denver is being forced to play without a quarterback for standard 2020’s reasoning: all four QBs on the Broncos roster are deemed COVID risks.
So now, a club that is barely clinging to the AFC playoff picture at 4-6 will have to deploy some sort of combo of third-string running back/“emergency quarterback” Royce Freeman and undrafted rookie receiver Kendall Hinton at the QB position.
The kicker is that it comes against one of the best defenses in all of football. New Orleans allows the third-fewest yards per game (302.2) and they also rank ninth in scoring defense (22.2). Not only that, the Saints are a top-five team in sacks (32) and takeaways (15). Now go ahead and tell Hinton — a kid from the practice squad just making his NFL debut! — to revert back to a position he hasn’t played in years, and face a real title contender.
There’s just no way this can end up right. And thus, like the aforementioned ‘65 Colts, Denver will likely heavily rely on the ground game, which is only beneficial for an under in rapidly chewing through clock.
The Broncos employ the services of Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay, so why wouldn’t they? Both would be legitimate RB1s for plenty of other organizations.
Well, the Saints have been especially stingy against the run this season, yielding the second-fewest rushing yards per carry (3.3) and per game (74.3). Given their improbable situation of not having a QB, this is what Denver will contend with.
As for the other side of the equation, a crooked number from the Saints is always feared no matter the opponent but it’s hard to argue such with Drew Brees out.
Taysom Hill got the nod (finally) for his first career start only last week and didn’t disappoint, impressively completing 18-of-23 passes for 233 yards. He wasn’t able to notch his first passing touchdown but he did accumulate two rushing scores.
The main thing was that the Saints went mostly a conservative route in regards to Hill’s handling of the offense. Most of his passes were of the short variety, while New Orleans also registered 36 rushes.
It’s also worth pointing out that the black-and-gold produced their lowest point total (24) of the campaign — and that was opposite what has been a bad Falcons D.
Look for Sean Payton to mastermind a similar strategy, meaning a lot of runs figure to be on the way once again. Denver is slated for the same and that should ensure time-consuming drives.
To protect myself from a 24-13/27-10 type outcome, I’m buying a half-point for my bet and recommend you all do the same.
The Bet: UNDER 37 (-120)
The Record: 6-4-1, +1.6 units
Last Week: Falcons-Saints Over 49 (loss)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit