Week 14 kicks off with a Thursday night NFC South battle between the division leading New Orleans Saints and the 3rd place Atlanta Falcons. The Saints have taken control of the division and are one game back from the top spot in the conference. The Falcons have fallen behind in the NFC Wild Card race and desperately need a win to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. With only a handful of games left in the season, it’s now or never for the defending NFC Champions. Kickoff inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is at 8:25 PM ET.
This week’s game will be the 97th time these two teams have played against each other. The Falcons hold a 51-45 advantage overall. Atlanta is also coming into this matchup on a 2 game winning streak as they swept the Saints last year. These two teams have faced off against each other 4 times before on Thursday night, with the Saints posting a 3-1 record for those game. This is the first meeting between these two teams during the 2017 season. They will play each other again during Week 16.
The Saints (9-3) are coming off a big divisional win over the Carolina Panthers. It was a solid home victory that marked a sweep of the Panthers this season. New Orleans was able to put some distance between themselves and the Panthers with just 4 games left. With a 3-0 divisional record, the Saints are in the driver’s seat for winning the NFC South and could really burst the Falcons’ playoff hopes with a win in Atlanta. New Orleans is 4-2 in road games this year.
The Falcons (7-5) are coming off a tough 14-9 loss to the Vikings. The defeat knocked Atlanta a game back in the Wild Card standings. Fortunately for the Falcons, they are currently 6-2 in the NFC and still have 4 more games left in the division. With 2 games vs the Saints, 1 vs Carolina and 1 vs the Bucs, Atlanta still has a chance at the NFC South and a Wild Card. However, a loss this weekend, would end any shot at the division and most likely put them 2 games back of the Wild Card with just 3 games left in the season.
The spread opened with Atlanta favored by 2 points. It has fluctuated back and forth with many books disagreeing on who is favored. Currently, the majority of books have this game listed as a Pick/Even. The Over/Under opened at 55 points and has come down to 53.5 total points.
Although Atlanta is the more desperate team coming into this game, New Orleans is the better overall team and should come away with the win this week. I really like how the Saints have a balanced attack on offense and a surprisingly reliable defense.
Both teams allow 20.3 ppg and 340+ total yards per game, but the Saints just look like the better team on paper and on the field. Offensively, New Orleans averages 7 more ppg and 43 more total ypg. They also are a superior running team and have more consistency at the QB position than Atlanta does. I believe these advantages will be the keys to victory for the Saints on Thursday night.
Although Brees (3,298 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INT) and Ryan (3,057 yards, 16 TDs, 8 INT) have comparable numbers, Ryan has been inconsistent all season. He has failed to win games in the end like he did last year when Atlanta went to the Super Bowl. This year, it’s Brees willing his team to victory late in the games.
The Saints average nearly 30 yards more per game rushing the ball than the Falcons do. At 142 rushing ypg, New Orleans is at the top of the league. Atlanta allows 113 ypg on the ground and I believe they will give up at least 120 this week. Saints running backs Ingram and Kamara are a dangerous duo that not only run hard, but they also catch the ball out of the back field. In fact, they are this year’s example of Coleman and Freeman from last year. Atlanta used to have the best duo of running backs, but they have struggled this year. The Saints are crushing opponents on the ground and look to continue that streak this week.
New Orleans put up 400 yards against the Panthers last week with 148 coming on the ground. Ingram and Kamara also added 103 receiving yards in the game. I expect this duo to come close to those numbers this weekend and score 3 touchdowns like they did last game.
I don’t feel that Atlanta has the answer to the Saints running backs or ground game. Also, the Saints have a good enough defense to contain Julio Jones and Atlanta’s running threats. I like the Saints to win this tough, divisional road game 24-20.
New Orleans is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games, 6-3 ATS in their last 9 NFC games and 12-3 ATS in their last 15 divisional games. The Falcons are 2-4 ATS versus teams with a winning record, 2-4 ATS as a home favorite of 3 points or less, and 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
As a bonus, I believe this game will hit the Under as it’s 6-2 in the last 8 meetings between these two teams.