The New Orleans Saints will look to keep rolling atop the NFC South on Sunday afternoon when they host the Atlanta Falcons in one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL. New Orleans has won six straight games to improve to 7-2 on the season after beating the San Francisco 49ers 27-13 at home as a 9.5-point favorite on Sunday. The Falcons took a two-game win streak into their bye over the weekend, having previously topped the Denver Broncos 34-27 as a 4.5-point home favorite in Week 9 to move to 3-6 overall.
Atlanta leads the hotly-contested rivalry 53-49 all-time, and the two teams split a pair of games in 2019. The Falcons earned a surprise 26-9 victory in the first meeting last year in the Superdome before the Saints returned the favor a couple weeks later with a 26-18 win in Atlanta.
Atlanta rests during bye weekThe Falcons entered their week off having won three of four following an 0-6 start to the year that lead to head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff being dismissed. In its last game against the Broncos, Atlanta cruised to a 27-6 lead midway through the third quarter on three touchdown passes from Matt Ryan. Denver would respond by scoring three touchdowns in a 12-minute span in the fourth quarter and got the ball back with under a minute left and a chance to tie, but the drive stalled with a quick turnover on downs.
Ryan had an effective game, completing 25 of 34 passes for 284 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Broncos outgained Atlanta 405-363, but an interception and two pass breakups from Ricardo Allen helped the Falcons defense hold the big lead.
“I think we’ve got a few things we’ve got to clean up, a few things we can do better, so we can close these games out a little quicker,” Ryan said via the Associated Press.
Atlanta is 4-5 against the spread, as it has covered in three of four games since Raheem Morris was named interim head coach. The over is 4-5 in Atlanta's nine games after the game against the Broncos went over the betting total of 50.5 points.
It's been a solid enough year for the Falcons offense, which is averaging 27 points per game to rank 13th in the NFL on 396.7 yards per game. The issues have been on the defensive side, where opponents are averaging 27.9 yards per game, and Atlanta ranks in the bottom three in yards allowed per game at 410 and yards allowed per play at 6.5.
Ryan is putting up another productive year, completing 235 of 351 passes for 2,746 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is having a breakout season with 43 catches for 657 yards and six touchdowns, although he missed the Denver game with an injury. Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun leads the Falcons with 64 tackles, along with three tackles for loss, one interception and one sack.
Ridley returned to limited practice as he attempts to work his way back from a foot injury and is officially questionable for Sunday. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Starting left tackle Kaleb McGary has been limited in practice by a knee injury but has been able to play through it since Week 3.
New Orleans wins sixth straight gameFollowing a shaky 1-2 start to the season, New Orleans has won six straight games to move into the No. 2 seed in the NFC. It was a slow start for the Saints last Sunday as San Francisco took a 10-0 first quarter lead, but New Orleans would score the next 17 points on a rushing and receiving touchdown by Alvin Kamara. The offense would slow down as Drew Brees was injured an unable to play the second half, but one more Kamara touchdown held up as the Saints defense shut down the beat up 49ers.
Kamara continued his All-Pro worthy season with 98 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 15 total touches. While the Saints only had 237 yards of total offense, they held San Francisco to 281 yards and forced four turnovers including interceptions by Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson.
"Our season is going to be full with change. That's part of adapting, whether it's injury-related, Covid-related, timing sequences," head coach Sean Payton told the Saints' official website. "I think that we are battle tested that way; we will continue to work on it and see where these (injured) guys are, coming out of this week's game and get ready for a rested Atlanta team that is playing well."
New Orleans is now 4-5 against the spread and has covered in two straight games after destroying the Tampa Bay Buccaneer 38-3 as three-point underdog the previous week. The over is 4-5 in Saints games this year as last Sunday's contest went under the betting total of 50 points.
While the Saints are putting up a middling 373.1 yards per game, they are fourth in the NFL in scoring at 30.1 points per contest. The New Orleans defense has played well of late, bringing its season totals to an average of 23.7 points and 308.2 yards allowed per game. New Orleans has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the span of 52 games, one shy of the NFL record set by the 1989-1992 Philadelphia Eagles.
Kamara is on the fringes of the MVP race with 104 carries for 486 yards, 67 catches for 648 yards, and 11 total touchdowns. Demario Davis is having another strong season at linebacker for the Saints with a team-high 59 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and three pass breakups.
New Orleans has not placed Brees on injured reserve, but he is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks with cracked ribs and a reported collapsed lung. Kamara has missed practice this week as he rests a foot injury, yet every indication is that he will be able to play on Sunday. Receiver Tre'Quan Smith returned to limited practice after returning from concussion protocol, while tight end Josh Hill has not yet been cleared from the same injury. Cameron Jordan missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday with a back injury but all indications are he will play.
Trends via Covers.com. New Orleans is:
- 6-1 ATS in its last seven games against teams with a losing record
- 4-1 ATS in its last five NFC South games
- 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings