New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Date and Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Opening NFL Odds: Falcons -2, O/U 55
Saints vs. Falcons TV Coverage: NBC
The Saints had a great Sunday last week. They knocked off the Panthers at home to take a one-game lead in the NFC South, and the Falcons were beaten by the Vikings here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Even though New Orleans holds a two-game advantage on Atlanta, the Falcons are still in reasonable shape since these two teams play each other twice in the next three weeks. The pressure is still on at both ends of the table knowing that the Saints could just as easily get the No. 1 seed in the playoffs (since they're only a game back of the Eagles and Vikings now) as they could fall out of the playoffs entire (with just a two-game cushion on the Falcons, the first team on the outside of the playoffs heading into Week 14).
This year's New Orleans team feels a little different than the ones of yesteryear. Drew Brees has always used his short passing game to his advantage, first with Darren Sproles, now with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Though Brees has thrown for 3,298 yards and is almost certainly going to have another 4,000-yard campaign, he only has 17 touchdowns in 12 games, a far cry from what you'd expect.
Then again, Ingram and Kamara have combined for 16 touchdowns this season on the ground, and that's any quarterback's best friend.
Matt Ryan had gone 33 straight games with a touchdown pass before last week's loss to the Vikings. That's a really good Minnesota defense that the Falcons just went up against, but there's still no excuse for not putting the ball in the end zone a single time over the course of the game.
The Falcons have the No. 8 total offense and No. 9 total defense in the NFL, and you'd figure they'd be on the right side of the playoff picture with stats like that. That said, they're still struggling against the really good teams on their schedule having lost to the Vikes, Panthers and Patriots already this season with just one big win to show for their work at Seattle.
Betting Trends of Note
Isn't it a tad odd that the Saints are underdogs in this game? They're playing some of the best football in the NFL, and they're seeming to find ways to win just about every game they play.
However, if you go back and look at their schedule, outside of the two games with Carolina, is there truly an impressive win in the bunch?
New Orleans was an underdog in each of its first three games of the season. Since then, the team has been favored at all of the best NFL sportsbooks in all but one of its games, and that game was lost in Los Angeles against the Rams.
So yes, the Saints are 9-3 this year, but they're 8-0 in games which they've been favored and just 1-3 when they've been underdogs.
Saints vs. Falcons Free Picks
That betting stat is definitely telling, and we're going to play into that for sure on Thursday night.
The Falcons are literally looking into a mirror of themselves right now. They use Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the exact same way that the Saints use Ingram and Kamara.
The difference is that the Atlanta defense is truly a better unit than what New Orleans has to offer, and its recent performances are suggesting just that. The Saints have fallen apart a bit defensively, allowing 78 points in their last three games. If that keeps up in Atlanta, they'll be saddled with a fourth loss on the year, and the NFC South is going to get crazy the rest of the way.
NFL ATS Pick: Falcons -2 at BookMaker.eu
NFL Score Prediction: Falcons 38, Saints 30