NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-3)
at ATLANTA FALCONS (7-5)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Ė Atlanta, GA
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
Line: New Orleans -2.0, Total: 53.0
The Falcons will be looking for a fourth win in five games when they host the Saints on Thursday.
The Saints have been one of the best stories of the NFL season, as they are looking like a serious Super Bowl contender right now. New Orleans started the year 0-2, so itís remarkable that this team has found a way to get to 9-3. The Falcons, meanwhile, are currently fighting for a spot in the postseason. Atlanta is coming off of a rough 14-9 home loss against Minnesota last week, but this team is still in decent shape. The Falcons can improve to 8-5 with a win on Thursday, which would put them 0.5 games behind both the 8-4 Seahawks and Panthers. Atlanta should feel pretty good about its chances in this one also. The Falcons have won each of their past two games against the Saints, but New Orleans did cover the last time they met. That game also happened to be in Atlanta. One trend that favors the Saints in this game is the fact that they are 15-6 ATS versus teams averaging 7.5 or more passing yards per attempt under head coach Sean Payton. Atlanta, however, is 10-2 ATS when playing on a Thursday since 1992.
The Saints have been impossible to stop this season, and a lot of that has to do with their running back duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas are still here and playing at a high level for New Orleans, but it has been Ingram and Kamara that teams just havenít been able to figure out. Ingram is a traditional bruiser at the position. He will do his best to wear Atlanta down between the tackles, and itís hard to say heíll have trouble doing so. Over the past five games, Ingram has rushed for five touchdowns and he has rushed for 75 or more yards in four of those contests. Kamara, meanwhile, just might be the most explosive running back in the league right now. Over the past five games, Kamara has rushed for five touchdowns and also caught 28 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He has a ridiculous number of moves he can go to in the open field, but he also knows how to break tackles. His presence has made life on Brees a lot easier, as simple dump-offs are turning into big gainers. Look for both of the running backs to find success against Atlanta. As for New Orleansí defense, the team will be just fine as long as the secondary does a solid job on Julio Jones.
The Falcons are coming off of a brutal loss to the Vikings, but they canít sulk. They need to get over it and move on to this game. If they lose then they are going to be in danger of falling too far behind in the playoff race. That means that QB Matt Ryan must rise to the occasion here. Against Minnesota, Ryan was just 16-for-29 for 173 yards with no touchdowns and no picks. He has thrown just one touchdown pass over the past two weeks, but itíll take at least two or three against New Orleans. And it shouldnít be too hard with WR Julio Jones on the outside. And if Atlanta canít get the passing game then the team better hope that RB Devonta Freeman is running well. He rushed for 74 yards on 12 carries last week, but the good news was that he looked healthy after coming back from a concussion. On defense, the Falcons need to do everything they can to control the Saintsí backfield.