Thanksgiving Day festivities in the NFL conclude with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints taking part in the third game of the league’s triple-header. The game gets started at 8:20 EST on Thursday, November 28 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans across the country can catch all of the action on NBC.
Current betting odds list the Saints as 7-point favorites on the road. The game also features an over/under of 49.5 points. Click here to see a full list of the NFL betting odds in Week 13.
New Orleans is sitting pretty with a four-game lead atop the NFC South standings, but it hasn’t been easy. The Saints are just a few weeks removed from their puzzling 26-9 loss to the Falcons at home. They were also pushed to the edge this past week, benefiting from Carolina missing a field goal and two PATs to win 34-31.
Of course, while the Saints only need two wins in their final five games to clinch the NFC South title, it’s time for them to start thinking about home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Oddly enough, the Saints have a showdown with San Francisco lined up for next week. A win in that game could allow New Orleans to overtake the 49ers for the best record in the NFC. But the Saints still need to take care of business this week if they want the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC to come through the Superdome.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s two-game winning streak came to a screeching halt last week. The Falcons came out of their bye with back-to-back road wins over the Saints and Panthers. Yet, they fell flat on Sunday against the Buccaneers, losing 35-22 at home. If they had won out, the Falcons would have had a slim chance to reach the playoffs, but those hopes are all but gone now at 3-8.
Atlanta is now looking at a possible last-place finish in the NFC South. There’s also continuing speculation that head coach Dan Quinn is on the hot seat. A year ago, the Falcons managed to come on strong late in the season despite being out of the playoff picture and at least finish a respectable 7-9. They might need to do something similar this year to save Quinn’s job.
This will be the second straight season that the Falcons and Saints meet on Thanksgiving. A year ago, the teams played in New Orleans with the Saints prevailing 31-17. The Saints also won in Atlanta last season, taking a 43-37 overtime thriller. However, the Falcons have won three of their last five home games against New Orleans and also dominated the Saints on their home field less than three weeks ago. That should make the Falcons feel good about their chances of getting a Turkey Day win.
Whatever the Falcons did to the Saints a few weeks ago, I don’t think they can replicate it on Thursday. Atlanta caught the Saints flat-footed, but that usually doesn’t happen twice in a season. New Orleans won’t make the same mistake they made in Week 10, especially with so much on the line. I like the Saints to get their redemption and easily cover the 7-point spread.
Somehow, the Atlanta defense was able to get a handle on the New Orleans offense in the first meeting. The Falcons did so by putting consistent pressure on Drew Brees, which is something they haven’t been able to do in almost any other game this year. In fact, they were shredded through the air on Sunday against Jameis Winston because he had endless time in the pocket. I expect the New Orleans offensive line to play like they have something to prove and keep the Atlanta pass rush at bay.
Moreover, the Saints ended up abandoning their running game against Atlanta a few weeks ago, which is something they should be able to avoid this time around. The Alvin Kamara-Latavius Murray tandem has been productive the past two weeks and both should continue to get plenty of touches. New Orleans also has receiver Michael Thomas, who is starting to get some MVP chatter. Plus, tight end Jared Cook is starting to become a bigger part of the offense, finding the end zone four times in his last five games.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta offense is suddenly ravaged by injuries. Julio Jones is questionable after leaving Sunday’s loss to the Bucs with a shoulder injury. Tight end Austin Hooper is also unavailable while the Falcons still aren’t sure if running back Devonta Freeman will be ready to play Thursday after missing two straight games. Backup running back Brian Hill has been ineffective the past two weeks, putting a lot on the shoulders of Matt Ryan. With no running game and Jones being limited, Ryan struggled to produce much against a weak Tampa pass defense last week, so I don’t have high hopes against a tough New Orleans defense.
I think we can all agree that Atlanta’s win over the Saints a few weeks ago was an aberration. Outside of being at home, where the Falcons are just 1-4 this year, nothing about this game is pointing in Atlanta’s favor. Obviously, a lot of folks got it wrong in Week 10, including myself. But I feel confident that the Saints will win and cover this time around.