The Atlanta Falcons will have their backs up against the wall on Thanksgiving night as they face the New Orleans Saints. Game time is at 8:20 EST on Thursday, November 22, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.
Oddsmakers list the Saints as 13-point favorites at home. The over/under is set at 59.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 12 NFL odds.
A few weeks ago, the Falcons appeared to be making a serious move to get back into the playoff conversation after a 1-4 start to the season. However, they’ve been stopped in their tracks by back-to-back losses to the Browns and Cowboys. Atlanta is now 4-6 on the season, although that record keeps them within two games of a wild-card spot. All hope is not yet lost, but the Falcons know that they almost have to win out in order to reach the playoffs.
With four of their last six games coming on the road, winning out will be easier said than down. In addition to playing the Saints on Thursday, the Falcons have the Ravens, Packers, and Panthers still left on their schedule. Given their flaws and inconsistencies this season, the Falcons winning all of their remaining games seems to be an impossible task.
Meanwhile, the Saints only seem to be getting better with each passing week. They still haven’t lost since that Week 1 shocker against the Buccaneers. They also haven’t slowed down since knocking off the previously undefeated Rams a few weeks ago. Since that win, New Orleans has defeated the Bengals and Eagles, outscoring those two teams by a combined 99-21.
Along the way, New Orleans has also opened up a comfortable three-game lead over the Panthers in the NFC South. The Saints are still a few wins away from clinching the division. They also have little margin for error with regard to holding off the Rams for the top seed in the NFC. However, New Orleans appears to have a rather comfortable cushion heading down the stretch.
Of course, the Falcons gave New Orleans one of their more difficult games of the season back in Week 3. Atlanta held a 4th quarter lead in that game, only to see Drew Brees score a rushing touchdown to tie the game with less than two minutes left and do the same in overtime to give the Saints a 43-37 win.
This line would have looked like pure insanity before the season, but it’s not that shocking based on how the season has unfolded to this point. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m swallowing 13 points for a divisional game in which the underdog is in a must-win situation. However, the Saints have been unreal the last few weeks. The Falcons squandered a chance to beat New Orleans in Week 3, and they won’t come close this time around. I’ll eat the points and lean toward the Saints to cover.
I won’t deny that the Falcons are more than capable of keeping up with the Saints in a good old-fashioned shootout. However, the Atlanta offense has sputtered a bit recently. Matt Ryan continues to have an outstanding season and Julio Jones has been phenomenal lately. But there’s not enough help for that duo. The production from Calvin Ridley and Mohammed Sanu has been modest the last few weeks, as both are battling nagging injuries. Meanwhile, the Atlanta rushing attack continues to be nothing special, putting everything on Ryan’s shoulders.
In fairness, the Falcons have played some tough defensive teams in recent weeks. However, the New Orleans defense they’ll face on Thursday is actually showing improvement. The Saints have allowed 20 or fewer points in five of their last seven games. That includes complete and utter domination of Carson Wentz and the Eagles on Sunday.
Surprisingly, the Saints have one of the top rush defenses in the NFL. Given Atlanta’s problems on the ground, the Saints should have no problem stopping the Falcons on the ground and making them one-dimensional. That won’t allow them to keep the Falcons at bay all night. But knowing Atlanta will have to throw the ball to do any damage should help a little.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta defense continues to be of little help. Even the Browns and Cowboys have been able to put points on the board against them the past couple of weeks. That doesn’t bode well when it comes to stopping the Saints. Despite how good Brees and company have been this season, the performance of Tre’Quan Smith against the Eagles may give the New Orleans offense yet another weapon. Even there’s a defense out there that can slow down the Saints right now, it’s definitely not the Atlanta defense.
To be honest, I hate writing off Atlanta in this game. But I can’t ignore the fact that the Saints have scored at least 45 points in three straight games. Given the play of the Atlanta defense this year and the limited amount of time they have to prepare on the short week, it’s hard to see that streak coming to an end. Moreover, with the New Orleans defense looking at least average in recent weeks, I think it’ll be tough for Ryan and company to keep up for four quarters. I’ll eat the points and look for the Saints to win this game by at least two touchdowns.