The Eagles-Saints point spread isn't the largest a defending Super Bowl champion has seen in the last 25 years, but it's close.
That distinction belongs to the 1995 49ers, who were 13.5-point underdogs when they went to Dallas for their then-annual brawl. San Fran was without Steve Young (shoulder) and had dropped two in a row.
That was at the height of the Niners-Cowboys rivalry of the 1990s, Naturally, Elvis Grbac led the 49ers, 5-4 entering the game, to a stunning 38-20 outright win.
That game, like the Eagles' pending visit to New Orleans, also was in Week 11. And the Cowboys, like New Orleans, were 8-1. While the Niners were missing their starting quarterback, their defensive secondary wasn't decimated, as the Eagles' is.
San Fran knocked out Troy Aikman in the first quarter and built a 17-0 lead in less than two minutes. A similar start for the Eagles is nearly unfathomable, given that they've been shut out in seven of the nine first quarters this season.
Should it come up, Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater are Drew Brees' backups.
Sunday will be the seventh game since 1993 that the defending champion is getting seven or more points. As of Thursday morning, the Eagles were 8- or 8.5-point underdogs, according to the mainstream bookies in New Jersey (more below).
Except for the 49ers, the other five lost outright. Those teams went 4-2 against the spread, however.
• The Ravens are the only recent team not to open at home the year after winning the championship. Baltimore was getting 7.5 points when they were drilled at Denver to start the 2013 season. (The Orioles also had a game that night, and city services couldn't handle the two events.) Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes. Baltimore never had a chance and lost, 49-27.
• The 2009 Steelers were getting 7.5 points when they had to start third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon in a trip to Baltimore. The Ravens, who had lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game the previous season, needed a field goal in overtime to win.
• The 2008 Giants had wrapped up home-field advantage going into a Week 17 visit to Minnesota. They played their scrubs most of the second half and still covered a 7-point spread in a 20-19 loss. Two weeks later, the Giants were upset by the Eagles in the divisional round.
• The Broncos were underdogs eight times during the 1999 season, on the heels of John Elway's retirement, none larger than the 9 points they covered in a three-point loss at Jacksonville. They were 4-8 entering the game and went 6-10 that year. They were 6-2 against the spread as underdogs.
• Dallas could not cover as 7.5-point underdogs in the 1994 NFC championship game. It was the third consecutive conference championship between the Cowboys and 49ers and the only one San Fran (38-28) was able to win.
A look at some of the lines and totals that were being offered in New Jersey for the Eagles-Saints game as of Thursday morning. Like the Eagles to cover? Caesars and MGM are at 8.5. Like the Eagles to win outright? MGM's money line (+340) is most generous. Stay away from DraftKings (+285).
Oddsmaker Vegas Vic picks the Thursday night NFL game:
Double V is gonna roll with Green Bay +2.5 points over Seattle.
Pete Carroll had the Packers figured out up to and including 2014. The Seahawks (-4.5) beat Green Bay at home in the opener of '14, 36-16, then took the Pack down in NFC championship game, 28-22, but failed to cover an 8.5 point spread. Since then, it has been all Mike McCarthy.
In 2015, the Packers (-3) posted a 27-17 victory in the not-quite-so-frozen-tundra. In 2016, the Pack (+2) romped to 38-10 win at home. And in last season's opener in Green Bay, the Packers (-2.5) picked up a 17-9 W against the Seahawks. That's four straight covers, and now, Aaron Rodgers has a legit running game to go along with his ALL-WORLD right arm. It's another Aaron — Aaron Jones. The kid from UTEP rumbled for 145 yards on 15 carries last week which worked out to 9.7 per. Throw in two TDs, and you can see why the other Aaron, Mr. Discount Double Check, is grinning from ear to ear.
Then we looked at Seattle's 4-5 record, and it spoke volumes. The Seahawks' four wins have come against the Lions (3-6), Raiders (1-8), Cardinals (2-7) and Cowboys (4-5). Not a winner in the bunch. Aaron squared is my ticket this evening, and it's $55 to win $50.
• Looked at Sunday's Tennessee-Indianapolis game and wondered whether there are any trends for teams the week after beating New England. In the last four years, teams are 7-3 straight-up and against the spread after beating the Patriots. The over is just 4-5-1 in that span, but 3-1-1 in the last two years. Tennessee is a 2-point underdog at Indianapolis.
• Resorts in Atlantic City is scheduled to open its permanent sportsbook on Tuesday. It'll be accessible directly off the boardwalk, as opposed to the current room, which is in the middle of the casino floor.
• Hollywood Casino at Penn National near Harrisburg started a two-day soft opening for sports betting on Thursday. Parx and SugarHouse will be the first operations to open in Philadelphia, likely in the next couple of weeks.
• New Jersey's sportsbooks reported a handle of $260.7 million in October, up from $183.9 million the previous month. Bookies won 4.5 percent in October, down from 13 percent in September.
• MGM's clumsy lawsuit against the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting came up last week when a banner plane flew above the Jets-Bills game on Sunday criticizing the Jets partnership with MGM. It's unclear who was responsible for the message, which read: Shame On Jets/MGM #EndGunViolence #StopMGM.
The consensus over/under for the Chiefs-Rams is 63.5, which would be the highest in NFL history. The Chiefs are second in the league at 35.3 points per game; the Rams are third at 33.5. (New Orleans is first with 36.7.)
The average total for the Rams' last four home games is 62.5. (I discounted the home opener when they smacked the listless Cardinals, 34-0.) The average total in KC's five road games is 67.2.
Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas came out with props on 2019's winningest pitcher and home-un champ.
Washington's Max Scherzer and Boston's Chris Sale are the early chalks for most wins at 12-1. Phillies ace Aaron Nola is 30-1, while Jake Arrieta is 100-1.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton was favored to win the HR title at 7-1. Teammate Aaron Judge was 12-1, and Boston's J.D. Martinez was 18-1.
Phillie Rhys Hoskins is at 30-1, while potential Phillie Bryce Harper is 25-1. Hoskins opened at 50-1.
"[We] saw some early support for [Hoskins]," said Westgate manager Jeff Sherman, "so we made some adjustments."
Note: The Ravens-Bengals line is off due to Joe Flacco's hip injury.