NFL Weekly Picks and Odds: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

Steven Jackson hasn't been very productive in the backfield this season which is a huge cause of the mediocrity in Atlanta.
Steven Jackson hasn’t been very productive in the backfield this season which is a huge cause of the mediocrity in Atlanta.

Falcons – Saints
Spread: NO -6.5
Total: 56

Betting odds c/o Bookmaker

The Atlanta Falcons are 5-9 this season and sit at 3rd in the NFC South and will face the 6-8 New Orleans Saints who lead the division. NFL Live lines showed the Saints as 6.5 point favorites over the visiting Falcons, who have dropped four of its past six contests.

Despite New Orleans being a sub-.500 division leader, it has taken care of business against poor teams. Last week the Saints carved up the lowly Chicago Bears by feeling off the first 24 points of the game before the Bears finally answered back at the 12:47 mark of the final period.

The Saints amassed 360 yards while holding Chicago to just 153, and the defense held Chicago to just 2-of-12 conversions on third-down. Four Saints receivers finished with 65 yards or more and Drew Brees threw three TDs without throwing a pick.

Brees is having a superb season with 4,300-plus yards and a 101.4 passer rating, and the 14th year veteran has thrown for a 60 percent or better completion rate in all but two games this season. Brees has been 70 percent or higher in four of the past five contests and has thrown just two picks over that span, as well. Despite that, the Saints have lost three of the five, and the 10-41 loss to the Panthers was the most painful for the Purdue product, throwing just 59 percent for completion and posting a passer rating of 69.7.

Atlanta continues to have immense problems as a result of its horrid defensive team. The Falcons are the worst pass defense in the league and rank 20th in rush defense, and while the team has a formidable pass offense of its own, it hasn’t resulted in much success.

The past two weeks, the offense has put up a very respectable 28.5 points per game, but the defense has given up an average of 6.5 points more per contest. While the Falcons have gone .500 SU over the past six contests, it was preceded by a five game skid that basically put the squash on this team ascending to be much.

Matt Ryan has put up stats, to be sure, but the backfield has been one of the least effective in the NFL. Steven Jackson, the primary option, has been good for just 3.8 yards per carry and has only two runs this season for 20 yards or more. No. 2 back rookie Devonta Freeman is a dual-threat back, but he hasn’t been a major breakout player this season. The 4th round pick should eventually be a nice option for both short pass routes and running plays, but at this point he’s a work in progress.

Julio Jones and Roddy White have combined for over 2,100 yards this season and each have been targeted over 100 times, also combining for 13 touchdowns. Harry Douglas and Devin Hester have also each caught for 400-plus yards, but passing the ball has hardly been Atlanta’s problem this season. Finding backfield help in free agency is No. 1 on the Falcons’ offseason agenda.

The point total for the game is set at 56 according to online football betting site Bookmaker.

Injury Report:

ATL, Likely to Play: H Douglas, R White, Q Asamoah (Q), J Scott (Q), W Moore (Q)

ATL, Out: R Alford, A Smith, P Konz, J Hawley, L Holmes, S Weatherspoon, M Spruill, M Johnson, Z Motta

NO, Likely to Play: J Sanford (Q), A Hicks (Q), T Armstead (Q)

NO, Out: B Bunkley, B Rush, B Cooks, V Sunseri, A Johnson, G Foster, J Byrd, A Davis

Betting Trends:

ATL: The UNDER Is 6-1 in the Falcons last 7 games following an SU loss. The Falcons are 1-6 in their last 7 on turf. The Falcons are 5-1 ATS in the last 6 vs the NFC South.

NO: The Saints are 0-4 ATS in the last 4 on turf; The Saints are 0-4 ATS in the last 4 home games. New Orleans is 5-0 ATS in the last 5 playing on Sun following a MNF.

Head-to-head: The Home team is 6-0 ATS in the last 6 meetings. The OVER is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings in New Orleans and the Underdog is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings.

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