The New Orleans Saints (2-0) are still looking to break out offensively as they host the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) on Sunday in a key NFC South matchup. The Saints -3.5 on the current NFL odds have outscored their first two opponents by a combined eight points – averaging just 297.5 yards to rank 21st in the NFL – and hope quarterback Drew Brees can break out with a big game here.
Brees is 7-1 all-time against the Falcons, averaging 292.2 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has yet to turn the ball over this season and is completing over 74 percent of his passes, but he is averaging just 245.5 passing yards with three touchdowns. Brees will also be without offensive weapon Reggie Bush, who suffered a broken leg in Monday night’s 25-22 win at San Francisco.
The Saints were outgained by 130 yards against the 49ers but were able to force four turnovers, including three when San Francisco was inside the 30-yard line. New Orleans will have a difficult time duplicating that feat against a Falcons team that was hitting on all cylinders in a 41-7 rout of Arizona last week.
Atlanta got an outstanding performance from running back Jason Snelling against the Cardinals in relief of the injured Michael Turner, who hurt his groin but is expected to play. Snelling rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns, earning named NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Turner had rushed for 75 yards on nine carries before leaving the game with the injury.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also improved to 10-0 when he has a passer rating over 100 after he completed 21 of 32 passes for 225 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Ryan will get wide receiver Michael Jenkins back from a shoulder injury as well, giving him another option in addition to Roddy White, who is tied for the league lead in receptions with 20.
The Atlanta defense has surrendered just two touchdowns through the first two games and will concentrate on stopping Brees since the Saints running game has not performed well, averaging an NFC-low 2.6 yards per carry. Without Bush, New Orleans will also not have the same type of field position or the same type of safety valve out of the backfield on third-down plays.
The Saints won but did not cover both meetings with the Falcons last season. Atlanta is 9-4 against the spread in its last 13 games against conference opponents compared to a 2-7 ATS mark in the last nine under that scenario for New Orleans. The OVER is 4-1 in the last five games between the teams with the winner averaging nearly 32 points.
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