5* 2011 NFL Game of the Year
Atlanta vs. New Orleans,
12/26/2011 20:30 EDT,
Score: 16 - 45
Point Spread: +7½/-135 Atlanta
5* 2011 NFL Game of the Year (ESPN) on Falcons +7.5
The Saints are getting too much respect here. Two of the last three games between these two have gone to overtime and each of the last four have been decided by three points.
While many teams have struggled against the Saints' high-powered offense, the Falcons have had success because they know the key to slowing down New Orleans is slowing down its running game. Plus, they have the horses to carry out the game plan.
The Saints have rattled off six-straight wins because they have been able to keep opponents honest with a running game that has averaged 136.0 yards during the winning streak. Rest assured, they won't have as much success on the ground versus an Atlanta defense that ranks 4th in the NFL with 96.6 rushing yards allowed per game. The Falcons have held the Saints to an average of 62.8 yards rushing over the last four meetings.
The Falcons have averaged 126 yards on the ground in those four matchups. Being able to run the football will be just as important as stopping the run Monday, and the Falcons shouldn't have much trouble running on a defense that gives up an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
This is significant because Atlanta is 6-0 ATS all-time under coach Smith in road games versus poor rushing defenses that allow 4.5 rushing yards or more per carry. The Falcons have won these games by an average score of 26.7 to 21.8.
The Falcons, who have had 3 more days than the Saints to prepare for this game, can punch their playoff ticket with a win, and I love their chances.