Chargers vs Saints Preview & Free Pick [October 12th 2020]

LA Chargers (1-3) at New Orleans (2-2)
When: Monday, October 12th, 2020
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome,
New Orleans, LA
Time: 8:15 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: New Orleans -7.5/52

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has been surprisingly competitive in his first three pro starts, but will be looking for his first victory on the big stage. Herbert and his Los Angeles Chargers travel to Louisiana to take on the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The former Oregon Duck has already played against Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady with Drew Brees on deck Monday. Herbert played well last week, but Brady threw five touchdown passes and rallied the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a 17-point deficit to a 38-31 victory. The sixth overall pick in the draft completed 20-of-25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs with one interception. Brees and the Saints offense got off to a sluggish start the first two weeks, but have picked it up since, including a 35-29 victory at the Detroit Lions last week. The Saints scored three second-quarter touchdowns on their way to a 28-14 halftime lead after falling behind 14-0.

The Saints are just over a touchdown favorite coming into this contest with a total set at 50. New Orleans has played to the Over in all four of its contests, but the Under has cashed in three of L.A.’s four games. The Saints are a solid 13-6 ATS over their previous 19 games, while the Chargers are just 3-7-1 ATS in its last 11. The teams have played three times in the preseason since their last regular season meeting in 2016. In that contest, New Orleans pulled out a wild 35-34 road victory as Brees passed for 207 yards and two scores. The Saints have covered each of the last three regular season meetings.

It certainly hurts the offense that starting running back Austin Ekeler is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a serious hamstring injury, so Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley should see a lot of action. Herbert does have quite a weapon outside in Keenan Allen, who ranks second in the NFL in targets and third in receptions. Although Tyrod Taylor has reportedly resumed practicing with the Chargers after getting sidelined with a punctured lung, L.A. will go with the rookie Herbert on MNF. Herbert could capitalize on the Saints’ banged-up secondary that might miss Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. The Chargers’ defense would like to apply more pressure to the quarterback after recording zero sacks against Brady and the Bucs. Four other Chargers starters sat out practice Thursday including defensive end Joey Bosa (triceps/knee), wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (back) and Trai Turner (groin).

It appeared the Saints would get back star wide receiver Michael Thomas back from an ankle injury, but word came Sunday afternoon that he will be suspended by the team for an altercation at practice last week. This is a developing story as we write this. The Saints prevented a three-game losing skid by scoring a come-from-behind win over the Lions last week. Brees passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns along with an interception on 19-of-25 completions. Running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and is always a threat catching the ball. Tre’Quan Smith caught both touchdown passes and was one of nine Saints with at least one reception. More starters were limited in practice this week including tight end Jared Cook (groin), offensive linemen Ryan Ramczyk (concussion) and Andrus Peat (ankle), defensive end Marcus Davenport (toe), and Lattimore and Jenkins.

Herbert has this offense moving and should be able to put up some good numbers against a banged-up Saints secondary. Not having Thomas in the lineup is limiting what the Saints can do downfield on offense. I’ll take the upstart Chargers here to keep it close.

Pick: Chargers +7.5
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