New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Thursday, November 29, 2012, 8:20 pm Eastern, TV: NFL Network
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
Opening Line: Falcons -3 1/2
Current Line: Falcons -3 (-130)
Opening Total: 55 1/2
Current Total: 56
Opening Money Line: Falcons -195 / Saints +165
Current Money Line: Falcons -190 / Saints +160
The 10-1 Atlanta Falcons are tied with the Houston Texans for the best record in the NFL. The Falcons get a chance to avenge their only loss of the season as they host the 5-6 New Orleans Saints Thursday night.
It was just 3 weeks ago that the Saints beat the Falcons 31-27 in New Orleans. The Saints made a crucial goal line stand late in the game to preserve the upset. The Falcons were held to 46 rushing yards and scored only 2 field goals inside the red zone. It was the fourth straight win and 11th in the last 12 games for the Saints against the Falcons.
This is one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries and some trash talk is to be expected. The Falcons have been saying all week that they pretty much gave the Saints the last game rather than the Saints winning it. Not that either team needs motivation. Atlanta can clinch the NFC South with a win Thursday and if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose or tie Sunday at the Denver Broncos. New Orleans is part of group of six 6-5 or 5-6 teams fighting for likely one NFC playoff spot.
New Orleans is coached by interim coach Joe Vitt. After an 0-4 start, the Saints have gone 5-2 since to get back in the playoff race. The Saints lost at home Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers 31-21 to snap a 3 game winning streak for New Orleans. Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he also threw two costly pick sixes that proved to be the difference in the game. The Saints are 6-5 against the spread this year and the total is 7-4. New Orleans was a 1 point underdog against the 49ers and the total was 50.
The Saints are averaging 381.9 yards per game on offense, including 290.5 passing yards and 91.5 rushing yards. New Orleans is outscoring teams 28-27.6 this season. The Saints are in the top 10 in the league in total offense, passing, and scoring, but 27th in rushing. The Saints are +2 in turnovers with 10 giveaways. New Orleans has allowed 21 sacks and averages 58.9 penalty yards per game. The Saints are 66/149 on third and fourth down conversions. On defense, the Saints are allowing 454.8 yards per game, including 298.3 passing yards and 156.5 rushing yards. The Saints are 28th or worse in all defensive categories, including dead last in total defense and against the rush. New Orleans has forced 24 sacks and 12 turnovers. Saints’ opponents are 66/162 on third and fourth down conversions.
Brees has completed 276 of 442 passes (62.4%) for 3,333 yards with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has been sacked 21 times but has a rushing touchdown. Running back Pierre Thomas has 75 carries, 341 yards, and a touchdown, along with 21 catches for 205 yards. Mark Ingram has 92 carries, 339 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 4 catches for 23 yards. Chris Ivory has 33 carries, 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darren Sproles returned from a broken hand last week. He has 26 carries for 117 yards along with 46 carries, 388 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also returns kicks and punts, and averages 28 yards per kick return. Receiver Marques Colston has 55 catches, 757 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is probable with a neck injury suffered on a scary looking play in the 49ers game when he landed on his head. Lance Moore has 45 catches, 699 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Jimmy Graham has 55 catches, 595 yards and 8 touchdowns. Devery Henderson has 20 catches, 289 yards and a touchdown. Four offensive tackles and five defensive players are questionable or out Thursday night.
Atlanta is coached by Mike Smith. The Falcons have won two straight close games against the Arizona Cardinals 23-19 and Buccaneers 24-23 last week to stay in first place in the NFC South and the conference. Atlanta overcame 2 turnovers in the win against Tampa Bay. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Receiver Julio Jones had 6 catches for 147 yards and an 80 yard touchdown grab in the 3rd quarter. The Falcons are 6-4-1 ATS and the total is 4-7 this season.
Atlanta is averaging 385.9 yards per game on offense, including 297.6 passing yards and 88.3 rushing yards. The Falcons are outscoring teams 27-20 this season. Atlanta is in the top 10 in total offense, passing, and scoring, but 28th in rushing. The Falcons are +3 in turnovers with 20 giveaways. Atlanta averages 28.2 penalty yards per game and has allowed 21 sacks this season. Atlanta is 71/150 on third and fourth down conversions. On defense, Atlanta is allowing 344.9 yards per game, including 221.7 passing and 123.2 rushing yards. The Falcons have forced 23 turnovers and 26 sacks this season. Falcon opponents are 51/136 on third and fourth down conversions.
Ryan has completed 294 of 429 passes (68.5%) for 3,425 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with 26 carries, 108 yards and a touchdown. He has been sacked 21 times. Running back Michael Turner has 168 carries, 592 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 13 catches and a touchdown reception. He is probable with a groin injury. Jacquizz Rodgers has 60 carries, 231 yards and a touchdown, along with 35 catches, 288 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Roddy White has 67 catches, 1,003 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jones has 53 catches, 883 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has 69 catches, 712 yards and 6 touchdowns. Five Falcon defensive backs are listed as questionable or out Thursday night.
The Saints are 6-1 ATS in November and against NFC South teams, 14-3 on fieldturf, 4-1 after rushing for 90 yards or less, and against NFC teams, 6-2 overall, 21-8 against teams with winning records, 20-8 after failing to cover, and 1-3-1 in Thursday games. New Orleans is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 against Atlanta. The underdog is 6-1 in this series recently.
The Falcons are 4-0 ATS after accumulating more than 350 yards, 4-1 in Thursday games, 19-7-1 after rushing for less than 90 yards, 23-9-2 after failing to cover, 3-8 in Week 13 games, 1-3-1 against NFC South teams, 1-4 against teams with losing records, 1-4-2 in November, 1-4 on fieldturf, 0-5-1 after allowing 90 rushing yards or less, and 0-3-1 after passing for more than 250 yards. Seven of the last ten games in this series have gone over the total.
There should be a lot of points scored in this game as both defenses are banged up and the offenses are explosive. The Falcons are in good shape to win the division title and the playoff berth that goes with it. So while on paper, the Saints need this game more, the Falcons need to win in order to get past a team that has dominated them recently. I think the Falcons win a close game at home.
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