Monday Night NFL Picks — Raiders-Saints: What Might Brees ‘Cook’ Up With Thomas Out?

The New Orleans Saints base an awful lot of their offense around the connection between Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, but they are going to have to do without that combination for this edition of Monday night NFL football. Oh, what to do? Well, take a trip to Vegas and roll the dice, right? That’s what Sean Payton‘s team is going to do as they take on the Las Vegas Raiders. Game time is 8:15 PM ET at the brand-new Allegiant Stadium. And if you are a BetOnline customer, you will have a chance to watch the game on ESPN and place wagers in real-time, And you’ll be able to wager on player props, as we’ll talk about in a moment or two. 

There is probably no receiver in the league who is as important to his team as Thomas, who not only caught 149 passes last season to set a new NFL record, but was also targeted more than anyone else. In other words, he is the guy Brees seeks out more than anybody in this offense, by far.

But now he has a high ankle sprain, which puts him out of action this week and possibly a whole lot longer. With an injury like this, you never know; it takes some healing, but also some re-adjustment when yoiu’re trying to get back into action.

Naturally this puts the Saints in a situation where they have to come up with another plan of attack. It’s probably fortunate that they have a guy who makes the receiver more than they make him, if you can understand what we mean.

In the Monday Night NFL odds posted on this game by our friends at BetOnline, the Saints are the road favorites:

New Orleans Saints -5.5
Las Vegas Raiders +5.5

Over 48.5 points -110
Under 48.5 points -110

The Saints acquired Emmanuel Sanders in the off-season, and he is a definite upgrade over Ted Ginn Jr., who was more or less Brees’ second wide receiver outlet last year. Sanders is not a game-breaker any longer, but he does run routes like a veteran, so he should have no problem making his presence felt.

Of course, Alvin Kamara is a thoroughbred; besides what he can do in the backfield, he caught 81 passes last season, so you know that Brees is going to seek him out often. Tre’Quan Smith has some big-play ability, and he will now be called upon to play a bigger role. The same goes for Deonte Harris and even Ty Montgomery, who has the versatility to play on the outside or in the backfield.

And then, of course, there is Taysom Hill, who could conceivably line up anywhere, even at quarterback on designed runs. With Thomas unavailable, he may also find hismelf involved on more snaps.

There is also another way the Saints can go, and it may provide some insight into their chances for Super Bowl gold.

You may remember when Jimmie Graham became the most productive tight end in the NFL while he was wearing a Saints uniform. He’s kind of drifted since then, but it’s possible that Brees can make the same kind of magic with Jared Cook, a Pro Bowl selection two seasons ago when he was with the Raiders (Oakland version).

In fact, he already has.

Cook can be a legitimate go-to guy. Last season he caught nine touchdown passes, and his ratio of TD receptions to targets was #1 among ALL receivers in the NFL. Also, his ratio of explosive plays to targets was best among all NFL tight ends.

He does fit the script, in the sense that he is available for ths short passes of Brees, who is right near the bottom of the league as far as “air yards” per attempt. And he can run after the catch as well. In a sense, he is a vastly undervalued asset. And with the absence of Thomas, he may just become the focal point of this aerial attack.

And if you check the player props for this game at BetOnline, you’ll see that Cook is priced at +450 to have at least 100 receiving yards in a New Orleans victory. He’s +1500 to have 150 yards and for the Saints to win. We’re not sure he’s THAT much of a monster. If you’re just looking for a receiving yards prop, the closest thing to an even money proposition is +108 on 61 or more yards. You can also get +219 if he makes six or more catches.

We know that Brees is very good at avoiding the “bad plays” like interceptions and sacks, and that the Saints’ overall objective involves having receivers run with the ball after the catch. And we haven’t seen any indication that tha Raiders’ secondary can be trusted yet.

What we’re saying is that if you are using the Thomas injury to stay off the Saints, you may want to reconsider. There’s no home field advantage here. The visiting team is much more accustomed to playing on turf and indoors. And guess what? New Orleans has won and covered its last seven games as the road team. We trust them more than we trust Las Vegas (get used to it).

BetOnline provides a lot of player props for the Monday night game, in addition to the best odds for pointspreads and total. And don’t forget to check back at the half, when you can peruse more numbers……. Every day of the week, you can get greatly enhanced payouts on pre-selected parlays with Odds Booster…….. Are you a poker player? There is still time to get in on the $2.5 Million Championship Online Poker Series………. They present lots of ways to open an account, and that includes using digital currency such as Bitcoin – these transactions never come with a fee!

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