Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#129 New Orleans Saints vs.
#130 Houston Texans
Saturday, August 13, 2022 at 8:00pm EDT
NRG Stadium, Houston
Written by Mark Ruelle

The New Orleans Saints travel to Houston on Saturday night to take on the Texans in the preseason opener for both teams. Both teams begin new regimes as they both start the campaign with a new head coach. Dennis Allen takes over for the Saints after the departure of their long-time head coach Sean Payton this offseason. Meanwhile, the Texans welcome the defensive-minded Lovie Smith as their new head coach this season. The kickoff is set for 8:00pm EST.

Familiar Face Running the Place

The Dennis Allen regime in New Orleans kicks off in earnest on Saturday night against the Houston Texans. This will be Allen's second stint as a head coach after a failed two+ year run as the head coach of the then Oakland Raiders. Allen went just 8-28 in his first stint as a head coach but now takes over a team he is much more familiar with after serving as defensive coordinator of the Saints since 2015 under former coach Sean Payton. Allen has a good understanding of his personnel and the Saints' usual style of offense. New Orleans welcomes back Jameis Winston this season after he had a season-ending knee injury last year. Under Payton, Winston began to tap into the potential he had coming out of Florida State, particularly with his decision-making. This season, Winston will be backed up by veteran Andy Dalton and former Notre Dame star QB Ian Book. Dalton represents an upgrade for a Saints team that struggled at the quarterback position last season after Winston went down.

The Saints' offseason was rather tumultuous starting with the resignation of Payton. The team then went out and made some key acquisitions that seem to fit the style of their new head coach. Primary among their acquisitions is safety Tyrann Mathieu. The former LSU standout returns home to play for the Saints which should be critical since the Saints parted ways with both of their starting safeties from 2021. The Saints also moved up in the draft to take Ohio State WR Chris Olave to give Winston an added weapon in the Saints pass-first offense. WR Jarvis Landry, another former LSU Tiger, came home as well to give the Saints and Winston a very reliable target in the slot. The Saints also took an offensive lineman with a first-round pick for the second time in three years when they selected LT Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa. Penning has a very good chance to start right away for the Saints' offense. Two other key Saints draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball: Alontae Taylor, a cornerback out of Tennessee and D'Marco Jackson a linebacker out of Appalachian State. Both should be contributors right away in Allen's defense.

In Allen's first go-round as a head coach, his teams went just 4-8 in the preseason. He inherits a veteran team that has a lot of bumps and bruises that will likely impact the lineup throughout the preseason. It is unlikely that Winston will take a snap in the first game of the preseason, fresh off of knee surgery and is dealing with a foot issue as wel.  It is also likely that veterans like Landry, Mathieu and former Pro-Bowl receiver Michael Thomas are kept on the sidelines in the season opener. Veteran QB Andy Dalton will probably get a long look in the first half as he acclimates himself to the Saints offense and the second half will likely belong to Book. The Saints finished last season at 1-1 in the preseason but were also in the midst of a quarterback battle between Winston and Taysom Hill. With the job firmly established to be Winston's, there may not be the same sense of urgency this summer.

All You Need is Love?

Like Dennis Allen, Lovie Smith will be taking another crack at head coaching in the NFL. Unlike Allen, this will be Smith's third shot at coaching an NFL franchise after stints with the Bears (2004-2012) and Tampa Bay Bucs (2014-16). Smith compiled a record of 81-63 as the Bears' head coach, including a trip to SB XLI and a record of 8-24 with Tampa Bay. He served as the head coach of Illinois from 2016-2020 and went just 16-39 in the rough and tumble Big 10 conference. Smith returned to the NFL in 2021 as associate head coach of the Texans under first-year man David Culley. So again, like Allen, Smith has familiarity with the roster that he inherits and will bring with him a defensive mindset after years of serving on the defensive side of the ball for a number of teams, including the Rams Super Bowl-winning team in 1999. The Texans quarterback room is not nearly as talented as the Saints with a foursome that includes: Davis Mills, Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel and Kevin Hogan. Mills started 11 games as a rookie last season out of Stanford and had an impressive 16 to 10 touchdown to interception ratio. He will be given the starting job from the outset this season as the quarterback room is clearly defined in Houston.

The Texans addressed several areas of need both through the draft and free agency. The team instantly improve its running back position by signing Marlon Mack from the Colts and adding Dameon Pierce with the 107th overall pick out of Florida. With the 3rd pick in the draft, the Texans selected cornerback Derek Stingley out of LSU. Stingley will be looked upon to be the team's shutdown corner for years to come. However, he's also dealing with a foot injury and is out. The Texans also bolstered their offensive line by taking Kenyon Green a guard out of Texas A&M with the 15th overall pick in the first round. The Texans also hung onto #1 wide receiver Brandon Cooks, the subject of many trade rumors both in and out of the season. Smith and his staff will have their work cut out for them with this four-win team from 2021.

Lovie Smith has a career 24-24 record in the preseason in his two head coaching stints in the NFL. His record fits with his no-nonsense style that favors defense over offense as the typical NFL defense starts out ahead of the offense as playbooks are put in each preseason. The Texans will likely allow 2nd-year QB Mills to get more reps in this game as he grows with the offense and tries to gel with his new backfield. There is a steep drop-off in experience and familiarity with the Texans' offense after Mills leaves the field. Kyle Allen is a career backup that saw modest success for the Panthers in 2019 after Cam Newton was shut down for the season due to injury. He played a career-high 13 games that season and 17 touchdowns to go along with 16 interceptions. Since then, Allen has appeared in just six games.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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Smith's teams have generally done fairly well in the preseason and he certainly comes in with a handle on his defense after spending 2021 coaching the unit. In addition, I am confident that Mills sees more action than your typical #1 quarterback in this game as he tries to familiarize himself with new OC Pep Hamilton's playbook. I envision him playing at least two series if not close to the entire first half as the rebuilding Texans work out their new system. The Texans also have far more young players than the Saints that will see and need to see game action while the Saints will likely rest several key veterans. Look for Allen to sit Winston out in this one as there is no need to risk injury to the recovering quarterback. Dalton should give the Saints some solid looks in the first half at QB but, again, Allen may limit his snaps as well because he doesn't want to risk a position that hampered the Saints for much of 2021. Expect to see a lot of 2nd-year quarterback Ian Book for New Orleans.  With that in mind, I like the Texans to come out on top in a game that should be a defensive struggle for two teams that should be far ahead of the curve on that side of the ball at this early stage.

Take the points and go with Houston.

Prediction: Houston +1.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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I love a low scoring game here as two defensive-minded head coaches do battle to start the season. Houston's defense may outperform the more talented Saints defense if only because I believe the Saints will rest a number of key veterans on both sides of the ball. Even with that in mind, it should be a defensive struggle in which I can easily see the two teams combining for no more than three scores in this one. The Texans were right around this number in all three of their preseason games last year but they also had a more veteran-laden offense led by Tyrod Taylor last preseason. Mills will eventually produce but he will also be working through a new scheme this preseason. As for the Saints, they were 1-1 to this total last preseason but that was a preseason that was livened up by a QB battle. Winston is far more secure this season and the Saints will undoubtedly be playing a different offensive scheme without Sean Payton at the helm.

Take the under, 33.5.

Prediction: Under 33.5
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Written By Mark Ruelle , "Mark Ruelle"

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.