Two NFC heavyweights face off Sunday in a matchup with a lot of implications towards the potential playoff outlook of each team. Both the Saints and Falcons lost in the Divisional round a season ago, to the Vikings and Eagles, respectively.
The Saints have been struggling to find their footing through 2 weeks, as each game went in completely different directions. After losing a shootout 48-40 against the Bucs, the Saints outlasted the Browns last week 21-18, with a lot of thanks going to Browns former kicker Zane Gonzalez for leaving 8 points on the board.
The Falcons played the Eagles week 1 in the first game of the season, losing 18-12 as well as losing their best two defensive players potentially for the season. They bounced back last week as well, beating a divisional rival in the Carolina Panthers 31-24.
MyBookie currently has the Falcons as 3 point favorites at home, with the Over/Under set at 53.
New Orleans Saints
After a disappointing loss week 1 in which they put up 475 total yards offensively, and allowed 529, the Saints got a win last week by the skin of their teeth against the Cleveland Browns. The Saints trailed the majority of the game, taking the lead 18-12 with 2:40 remaining in the game.
The Browns struck back in a little over a minute, but missed the extra point, which was followed by Will Lutz draining a 44 yard field goal with 21 seconds to go. Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez missed both of his extra point attempts in the contest, and missed two huge field goals down the stretch as well, including one that would have tied the game back up in the final seconds.
Offensively, the Saints have been nothing short of impressive, led by Drew Brees 682 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. Wide receiver Michael Thomas is second in the NFL through 2 weeks with 269 yards, and the offensive line has kept Brees clean for the most part, allowing just 3 sacks, all coming against the Browns.
The defense obviously has room for improvement, after allowing 500 plus yards to the Bucs, followed by 327 to the Browns. As per usual, Cam Jordan has been a one man wrecking crew off the edge, with 2 sacks through 2 games, but hasn’t gotten much help up front. The secondary has been susceptible to big plays, allowing 4 plays of 35 yards or more through the air.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
WR TreQuan Smith (knee)- questionable, DT Tyeler Davison (foot)- questionable
It’s tough to take much stock in the first game of the season, but the Falcons definitely did not look prepared, especially offensively. Matt Ryan found Julio Jones for some huge completions down the field, but the Falcons play calling in the red zone was horrendous, leading to a 1-5 conversion rate.
Against Carolina, the Falcons were much more impressive schematically, going a perfect 4-4 in the red zone. In a back and forth game, Atlanta could not afford to not get 6 on the board each time down the field, and they made the most of their opportunities.
Matt Ryan was efficient and effective last week, going 23/28 for 272 and 2 touchdowns. The Falcons offense features a lot of dynamic weapons, and can attack you in a variety of ways when they’re on their game.
The defense lost 2 stars week 1 in LB Deion Jones and SS Keanu Neal, which is a huge blow to the Falcons coverage. Cornerback Robert Alford has been impressive this season, allowing 68 yards on 12 targets, as well as breaking up 5 passes.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
LB Deion Jones, S Keanu Neal- IR, EDGE Takkarist McKinley (groin)- questionable, RB Devonta Freeman (knee)- questionable, G Andy Levitre (elbow)- placed on IR
Matchups to Watch
Saints WR Michael Thomas vs Falcons CB Robert Alford
Saints iOL vs Falcons DT Grady Jarrett
Falcons WR Julio Jones vs Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
Falcons OTs vs Saints EDGE Cameron Jordan
Divisional matchups are always tough games to wager on. Neither of these teams has impressed me enough through 2 weeks for me to feel confident taking them against the spread.
I think the Falcons defense, albeit without 2 stars, is still talented enough to hold Drew Brees and the Saints offense in check enough to keep this competitive. On the other side, the Falcons should have no issue up front against a Saints front 7 that showed their deficiencies a week ago.
The Atlanta passing game arguably has more weapons than Tampa Bays, and if Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is in his groove like he was a week ago, the air attack should flourish against a Saints secondary that has been less than impressive.
Brees and the Saints offense will face a tough matchup this week, and I expect to see a lot of Michael Thomas and balls to Alvin Kamara out of the backfield. The Falcons offensive line showed they could be stifled by a tough defensive front, and Cam Jordan should look for another huge game.
All in all, I think these divisional games tend to play lower scoring than typical matchups. I don’t feel comfortable taking the 3 points either way, especially with the low end play we’ve seen from both sides. I’m gonna roll with the under here, as 2 teams that are very familiar schematically should play a hard fought game.
Final Pick: Under (53)