The Spread and Total
New Orleans Saints (-1.5, O/U 52) at Atlanta Falcons, courtesy of bovada.lv.
The Falcons opened up as the favorite and a few books still favor Atlanta. New Orleans, who swept the season series from Carolina last week, can go a long way towards winning the NFC South with a victory.
New Orleans Saints: 9-3 SU (7-5 ATS); 1st NFC South
Atlanta Falcons 7-5 SU (5-7 ATS); 3rd NFC South
G Andrus Peat (groin), out; S Marcus Williams (groin), out; CB Marshon Lattimore (ankle), questionable; RB Mark Ingram (toe), questionable; OT Terron Armstead (shoulder/thigh), questionable; DE Trey Hendrickson (knee), questionable; CB Ken Crawley (abdomen), limited practice/no official designation; CB PJ Williams (shoulder), limited practice/no official designation; LB AJ Klein (groin) practiced in full/no official designation.
G Andy Levitre (tricep), out; TE Eric Saubert (back), out; CB Desmond Trufant (concussion), practiced in full/no official designation; CB Brian Poole (back), practiced in full/no official designation.
Jan. 1, 2017 (Georgia Dome): Atlanta 38, New Orleans 32
Sept. 26, 2016 (Mercedes-Benz Superdome): Atlanta 45, New Orleans 32
Jan.3, 2016 (Georgia Dome): New Orleans 20, Atlanta 17
Oct. 15, 2015 (Mercedes-Benz Superdome): New Orleans 31, Atlanta 21
Significant ATS Trends
The point spread has been a non-factor for the Falcons most of the year. Each of the last five games, they have either won and covered, or lost and failed to cash. Only two of their games have featured a different SU and ATS result: on September 10, they beat the Bears but did not cover a seven-point spread; on October 29, they beat the Jets but did not cover a 6.5-point spread)
In six of seven ATS losses, the Falcons have gone under the total. They’ve gone over in four of five ATS victories.
Since starting the year 0-2 straight up and against the number, New Orleans is 9-1 overall and 7-3 ATS.
The Saints are 5-0 ATS this season when favored by less than a touchdown.
Just one of the past five matchups in this series has been decided by less than six points. The winning margin has been 10 points or more in three of those games.
The first meeting of the season between these division rivals finds a desperate Falcons team, currently sitting one game out of the playoffs, in need of a win to realistically stay in the race.
Atlanta saw their three-game win streak end last week in a 14-9 loss at home to Minnesota. It has been an up-and-down campaign for the Falcons, following their disappointing loss in last season’s Super Bowl. They started the year 3-0, then lost three straight and four of five before outscoring the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Buccaneers 95-58 during a three-game win streak.
The low-scoring loss to the Vikings in Week 13 felt a bit like the Falcons’ three-game skid early in the year when Buffalo, Miami, and New England held down them to just 41 points, combined.
Against Minnesota, the Falcons totaled only 275 yards, and made just a single trip to the redzone, even though they didn’t commit (or generate) a single turnover. Wide receiver Julio Jones was limited to two catches, just one week after going off for 12 catches, 253 yards, and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win over Tampa. The entire offense was firing on all cylinders in that one, with Matt Ryan and company piling up 516 total yards.
One constant for the Falcons has been not shooting themselves in the foot. They haven’t committed more than one turnover in a game in over a month, and they are in the top third of the league averaging only 6.2 penalties a game.
Interestingly, though the Falcons don’t turn the ball over a lot, they are even worse in generating takeaways. They have forced none in the last two games, and just 10 all season. Only the Raiders — who didn’t have a single interception until Week 11 — have created fewer turnovers. Since New Orleans has only given the ball away a dozen times this season, the Falcons will need to bend and not break against a powerful offense if they can’t make the big play that changes the game.
The Saints are scoring over 29 points a game, third best in the NFL, and that has been on full display following an 0-2 start. Since losing to Minnesota and New England to start the year, New Orleans has dropped just one game, two weeks ago to the Rams in LA. During the nine victories, the Saints have tallied nearly 33 points per game. They beat Carolina, which boasts a pretty stout defense, 31-21 last Sunday.
Against the Panthers, a balanced Saints offense totaled 400 yards while limiting Carolina to 167 yards in the air and 112 on the ground. Two Panther mistakes on special teams led to 10 New Orleans points. Running back and Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite Alvin Kamara managed over 100 total yards for a fifth straight week and found the endzone twice. The Tennessee product now has four touchdowns in the last two weeks and 11 on the year.
In their loss in LA two weeks ago, New Orleans was without corners Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley. Jared Goff proceeded to feast on the Saints secondary, completing 28 of 43 passes for 354 yards and two scores. New Orleans’ 20-point output matched its lowest since a 29-19 season-opening loss in Minnesota.
LA’s formula on offense — throw early and often — is probably the right method against New Orleans. In the Saints’ loss to Minnesota in Week 1, Sam Bradford went 27 for 32 with three touchdowns and 346 yards. Tom Brady had no difficulty attacking the Saints in Week 2, passing for 447 yards and three scores on a 30 for 39 day.
Matt Ryan should be able to find success in the air. Prior to the Minnesota game, Ryan had completed over 70-percent of his passes in three straight games with five scores and just one pick. In two meetings last year, Ryan went 47 for 66 against the Saints for 571 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions.
These teams know each other well, and while their defenses may be improved over previous meetings, each team has more star power and confidence when they have the ball. While the total is high, there is little reason to expect a lot of turnovers or big stops.
As for the spread, it’s a toss-up game and motivation could play a big role. New Orleans will likely make the playoffs regardless of the outcome, while Atlanta probably needs this game to reach the postseason. Back the desperate team getting points at home
Pick: Falcons (+1.5) and OVER (52)