coleryan Posts:19250 Followers:23
On 11/18/2013 04:36 PM in NFL

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons: Preview and Pick

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons: Preview and Pick

The New Orleans Saints are back and look like they are on their way to the playoffs and have a shot at the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcons are just playing out the string and after an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they are hoping the season ends soon. However if there was ever a game that the Falcons could get up for, it is the game against their rival Saints.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Odds

The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Saints listed as touchdown favorite. That seven quickly added the hook and can now be found at (-7.5) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks. The reason for the move is that over 84 percent of the early wagers are coming in on the Saints. The Falcons are getting no love after an embarrassing loss to the Buccaneers and will most likely not be bet leading up to kickoff.

The Saints stood toe to toe with the physical 49ers on Sunday. They absorbed a few big shots (most of them self-inflicted). And they rallied from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter for their biggest win of the season to date.The defense was downright dominant, holding San Francisco to 196 yards and notching three sacks. Payton even credited his trust in the defense for an ill-fated decision to go for it on fourth-and-4 early in the third quarter. The Falcons should be an easier opponent for this Saints defense, but they have to avoid the letdown going on the road, a place where they have been known to struggle this season.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveal just how bad the Falcons looked of late. New Orleans is 5-2 straight up in its last 7 games when playing on the road against Atlanta and 5-1 straight up in its last 6 games when playing Atlanta overall. The total has gone over in 4 of New Orleans's last 6 games on the road, but the total has gone under in 4 of Atlanta's last 5 games when playing at home against New Orleans. Atlanta is 2-6 against the spread (ATS) in its last 8 games at home and 2-4 straight up in its last 6 games at home. The Falcons are 14-5 straight up in its last 19 games at home overall but just 1-6-1 straight up in its last 8 games.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-6-0
coleryan Posts:19250 Followers:23
11/19/2013 01:54 PM

The New Orleans Saints barely had time to catch their breath from Sunday's frantic conclusion before they were already looking ahead in the week.

The 23-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers was already on the back burner Monday morning with a divisional game at the Atlanta Falcons coming up Thursday.

Typically teams have a 24-hour rule to enjoy the win. Not this week.

"We've got out of that game, we won that game, it was a hard physical fight," said Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. "We're looking forward towards Thursday. We're already breaking down film for Atlanta today."

The Saints will have a light week, practicing on Tuesday, which is normally the players' day off, and leaving for Atlanta on Wednesday.

"Typically on a short week like this we get right on to the next opponent," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "There have been snippets we looked at, really nothing has changed since last night. We are kind of on to the Atlanta plan just with the reduced time."

The Saints beat the Falcons, 23-17, with a last second goal line stand at home during Week 1. Since then, the fortunes of the two franchises have diverted wildly, with the Falcons losing several key players and falling to 2-8.

Atlanta is also coming off a short week after a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

"We know them and they know us," Jordan said. "Familiarity helps in a short week, but at the same time it's going to be a physical, hard-fought battle regardless because we always play each other tough."

Payton said this week will be mostly about keeping the players healthy, mentally and physically, during a quick turnaround.

"I think (about) the toll on the players and just trying to get them as much rest as possible prior to playing another football game," he said.

The Falcons have struggled this season, losing several key starters, including wide receiver Julio Jones, and losing four games in a row. But Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem gave them a healthy dose of respect on Monday.

"It's going to be a challenge to just be rested and be mentally tough for this game. Atlanta has a good defense and a good offense, and when they're clicking, they're clicking," Meachem said. "At home, they are tough to beat."

Added Jordan: "It's a division opponent, it's our rival. I mean to flip around and have a game Sunday then a game Thursday, it's going to talk a lot about the fortitude and what we have on this team."

The Falcons were the Saints only Thursday night opponent last season. The Saints turned the ball over five times and lost that matchup, 23-13.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-6-0
coleryan Posts:19250 Followers:23
11/20/2013 08:29 PM

What a juicy matchup the NFL scheduled for Thursday night, a showdown for the lead in the NFC South and maybe for the best record in the conference.

Then the Atlanta Falcons didn't do their part.

Instead, the prime-time meeting between long-time rivals has lost much of its luster. Atlanta (2-8) is the biggest disappointment in the entire NFL, going from nearly making the Super Bowl to contending for the top overall draft choice.

It's been a rough year for the Falcons, who have been ravaged by injuries and plagued by sloppiness (minus-11 turnover margin).

"It's certainly not fun when you're not in the mix," Matt Ryan said. "That's part of this league. There are times when it can be humbling. You've got to keep your head down and keep going. I think you learn from everything, the good and the bad, and sometimes you learn more from the bad than the good. I think everybody is trying to learn from it, apply it to themselves and find ways to get better, find ways to use it as motivation."

The Saints (8-2) don't need much more motivation than this: If they can win out, they will get the home field throughout the NFC playoffs because they will have beaten the Seahawks (10-1), the only team ahead of them in the conference. They meet Dec. 2.

That's huge: No one wants to go to Seattle or to New Orleans in the playoffs.

"You always want to be at home," Drew Brees said, "especially in those games."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-6-0
coleryan Posts:19250 Followers:23
11/20/2013 08:30 PM

Close games define the NFC South rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

When you consider that half of their 88 previous games have been decided by seven points or less, it’s easier to grasp the urgency with which the Saints prepared for today’s game.

When the teams opened the season with a thriller in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints prevailed 23-17 on an end zone interception with less than a minute remaining.

Even though the Falcons (2-8) aren’t in playoff contention, the Saints (8-2) don’t expect to walk out of the Georgia Dome with an easy win.

The Saints are coming off a 23-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers, while the Falcons are on a four-game losing streak after dropping a 41-28 decision to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

The Saints are in the running for home-field advantage in the conference and hope to push their NFC South lead over the Carolina Panthers to 1 1/2 games.

“I mentioned this in the team meeting,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “You could really go back through the last six, seven, (or) eight years and every one of these games seems to come down to a one possession type of game.

“Regardless of how one team is doing or how the other team is doing, it has been really consistent and I expect this to be the same. It is a tough place to play, they have been very good at home.”

The season opener followed the script when Saints strong safety Roman Harper came away with an interception in the end zone after rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro tipped away Matt Ryan’s fourth-down pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez.

“It came down to the last possession … they seem to be played in a lot of ways very similarly in that they end up in a fourth down,” Payton added. “The (game) ends up with a field goal late, and that is what makes it exciting.”

As for the Falcons’ struggles this season, Payton attributed some of their misfortune to injuries — especially star wide receiver Julio Jones.

“In our league there is such a fine line that you deal with, especially when it comes to injuries,” Payton said. “We could point to a number of seasons where you play in a number of games and you’re able to win the close games — maybe — as opposed to not.

“I know how difficult it is to win in our league and I know how often these games come down to the final plays — making a play in the end and having a chance to win. When you add the injury element to it, it obviously is that much more difficult.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-6-0
coleryan Posts:19250 Followers:23
11/21/2013 10:49 AM

A year ago, the Atlanta Falcons were vying for the best record in the NFC while the New Orleans Saints were mired in one of the most frustrating seasons in team history.

With the roles reversed in 2013, the visiting Saints can sweep the season series by extending the Falcons' longest skid in six years to five games Thursday night.

The return of coach Sean Payton and addition of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has helped New Orleans (8-2) leave the dismal 7-9, bounty-scandal season of 2012 in the past and thrive once again. The Saints are 1 1/2 games behind Seattle for the best record in the NFC and looking for a third straight victory after rallying from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat San Francisco 23-20 at home Sunday.

"These are the (games) that just sharpen you, build confidence moving forward," quarterback Drew Brees said.

Injuries, combined with a poor running game and struggling defense, has Atlanta (2-8) tied for the worst record in the conference after finishing an NFC-best 13-3 and coming within one win of the Super Bowl last season. The Falcons lost 41-28 to Tampa Bay on Sunday and have dropped four straight for the first time since a six-game slide in 2007 - the season before coach Mike Smith's arrival.

"Clearly, we're 10 games into this thing and certainly far, far away from where we want to be," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We've got six games to go. It's about going out there and taking pride in what you do."

After New Orleans rallied from a 10-0 hole to post a 23-17 season-opening victory over the Falcons, it appeared the teams would mix it up for the South Division title.

The Saints have done their part, starting 5-0 and riding an offense that ranks second in the NFL with 419.1 yards and 28.8 points per game. Brees is completing 68.2 percent of his passes and is second to Peyton Manning with 3,369 passing yards and 26 touchdowns.

He was 30 of 43 for 305 yards with a TD and an interception to help the Saints overcome two other turnovers by leading them to three fourth-quarter field goals last week.

"You're going to have games like this," he said. "This game means more the way that we won it."

After running for a season-high 242 yards in a 49-17 rout of Dallas on Nov. 10, New Orleans outrushed San Francisco 92-81 and held Frank Gore to 48 yards on 13 attempts.

The Saints allowed 440.1 yards and 28.4 points per contest in 2012, but rank fourth with 305.4 yards and fifth with 18.3 points this season. However, they expect to be without cornerback Jabari Greer after he suffered a knee injury against the 49ers.

New Orleans held the Falcons to 367 total yards and gave up seven points after the first quarter in September. Brees threw for 357 with two TDs and an interception, bouncing back from a no-TD, five-interception performance in a 23-13 loss Nov. 29 that snapped the Saints' three-game winning streak at Atlanta.

Since that defeat, Brees has thrown a touchdown pass in 14 straight games, totaling 38 with 11 picks during the run.

His first TD of the season went to Marques Colston, who became New Orleans' all-time leader in receiving yards with 7,923 after recording 80 on five catches Sunday. Colston has three touchdowns in his last four games against Atlanta.

Though the Saints have won 12 of 15 over the Falcons, they understand the challenge that awaits on a short week against a desperate team.

"This is a test that we're going to have to try and overcome," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "Honestly, why not have it? It's a division opponent, it's our rival. It's going to talk a lot about the fortitude and what we have on this team."

Atlanta is allowing 29.2 points per game - 29th in the league - and yielded 108 in its past three, but owner Arthur Blank remains confident in Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

"I absolutely do. And, they've earned it over the past five years," Blank said. "It's a tough business. We've had a lot of injuries, and issues on top of the injuries. These guys are proven leaders and proven by success. ... They'll do the work that has to be done with my full support."

The Falcons might have bottomed out Sunday when they trailed 38-6 to a Tampa Bay team that earned its first win the week before.

Ryan threw an 80-yard pass to Harry Douglas to extend his streak of games with at least one touchdown to 16, but he was sacked three times and one of his two interceptions was returned for a score. Ryan has five TDs and nine INTs in the last four contests after throwing 13 with three picks in the first six.

The Falcons were averaging 64.3 rushing yards going into the Bucs game, but gained a season-high 152 with most coming in the fourth quarter. Little-used Antone Smith ran for 88 on two carries, including a 50-yard score.

Smith could see more time over Steven Jackson, who has gained 192 yards and not scored a rushing TD in six games this season. However, Jackson ran for a season-high 77 yards on 11 attempts against New Orleans in Week 1.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-6-0