Lost in the madness of the NFL’s quarterback changes over the past two weeks were the Saints, who have struggled to a 2-5 start but are still within striking distance in a terrible NFC South.
New Orleans was without Jameis Winston for about a month due to back and ankle injuries, and while the team hasn’t won very much with Andy Dalton under center, Dalton played well enough to give Dennis Allen a real decision to make. With Winston getting back to full health, who will start at quarterback for the Saints against the Raiders this week?
Saints Starting Quarterback vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Allen announced Wednesday that Dalton will be the Saints’ starting quarterback going forward, adding that Winston is now healthy and will serve as the team’s backup. Dalton, who turns 35 this weekend, is only 1-3 as a starter this season, but offense has rarely been the issue for New Orleans. The Saints have scored 25+ points in each of his starts and have moved the ball well despite a slew of wide receiver injuries – including persistent absences for Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry.
Dalton has completed 63.4% of passes this season for 946 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He’s generally done a better job of taking care of the ball than Winston. While he did throw 3 INT in his last start, one was the direct result of a dropped pass, and 4 interceptions in four games still beats Winston’s 5 interceptions in three games.
Allen is banking on wins eventually starting to pile up as long as Dalton continues to move the offense. Dalton has 152 career starts under his belt, including 133 with the Bengals.
Andy Dalton vs. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders’ pass defense has had a tough year, allowing 6.9 yards per pass attempt (tied for most in the AFC). Las Vegas has also allowed 13 touchdown passes despite a bye week, with only the Chiefs and Commanders surrendering more.
Even in a low-scoring environment this season, the Raiders have allowed 20+ points each week. That, more than anything else, is why they’re 2-4. Dalton and the Saints’ offense should be in line for another solid day, though avoiding turnovers will again be key.
Las Vegas Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints Odds
The Raiders are slight 2-point favorites on the road in this game, entering at -135 on the moneyline. In a battle of 2-win teams, the Raiders clearly have more momentum going in, but the numbers don’t lie – Dalton and the Saints have started to move the ball well. This figures to be a fairly high-scoring matchup with Dalton under center (though key absences in his receiving corps could hurt).
New Orleans is hoping Dalton’s presence as the full-time quarterback will cut down on turnovers. If he can’t do that, we may see Winston back under center at some point soon.