Monday Night Football Picks: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Odds & Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 9/22/2016
I don't happen to think the Saints are very good and that they are going to miss the playoffs again because of their defense, as usual, but that New Orleans crowd figures to be a bigger advantage than usual on Monday night against Atlanta.
Why? On Sept. 25, 2006, the Saints returned to the Superdome for their first game there since Hurricane Katrina a year earlier. The crowd that night was ear-splitting. You may remember the Falcons went three-and-out on their first possession. On their punt attempt, Steve Gleason, now battling the terrible disease ALS, blocked it and Curtis Deloatch recovered the ball in the end zone for a TD. The Saints won 23-3 and Gleason's blocked punt has since been commemorated with a statue outside the Superdome.
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You would have to call this a must-win game for the Saints at 0-2, although it's not impossible to make the playoffs after losing your first two games. Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, 26 teams started 0-2 and still qualified for the postseason. Houston won the AFC South last year after a 0-2 start. The 2007 Giants won the Super Bowl despite losing their first two. The last season no 0-2 teams made the playoffs was 2012. Atlanta (1-1) could find itself in sole possession of first place in the NFC South potentially with a win, although I doubt fellow 1-1 teams Tampa Bay and Carolina lose at home on Sunday.
Falcons at Saints Betting Story Lines
Sometimes NFL handicapping really irritates me . Last year when the Saints hosted the Giants, it was a 52-49 offensive extravaganza in the Superdome with a record 13 touchdown passes thrown. Drew Brees tied an NFL mark with seven and had 505 yards. I'm not saying I expected that score again last week when New Orleans visited the Giants, but I certainly didn't expect a 16-13 final score in favor of New York. That terrible Saints defense played that way in the Week 1 home loss to Oakland yet didn't allow an offensive touchdown to Eli Manning and Co., although the Giants did have 417 yards of offense. They won it on a Josh Brown 23-yard field goal as time expired. The Saints have opened the year 0-2 for the third straight year, and both losses came on scores that came with less than a minute to go.
After a huge Week 1, Brees, who generally isn't the same guy away from the Superdome, threw for 263 yards and a touchdown against New York. He again didn't throw a pick and hasn't in his past 268 attempts dating to last season. If you are wondering, the record for most TD passes without an interception through three games in an NFL season is 12 by Peyton Manning in his 2013 MVP season. Brees would need seven TDs on Monday night to match that. Brees did pass Dan Marino last week for third on the all-time passing yardage list. Brees (61,589) won't pass Manning's record of 71,940 for probably three years. Saints receivers Willie Snead (226 yards, two TDs) and Brandin Cooks (211 yards, two TDs) are the only players in the NFL with at least 200 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. They did most of their damage in Week 1.
I honestly didn't think Atlanta would go to Oakland last week and win, but the Falcons did 35-28. Matt Ryan hit Justin Hardy on a lucky deflected 8-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to break a 21-all tie. Tevin Coleman basically iced it on a 13-yard TD run with 4:35 left. The Raiders would score right before the two-minute warning but opted to kick off deep with three timeouts left. Atlanta was able to get a first down and run out the clock.
Ryan didn't close last season strong but is second in the NFL in passing yards with 730, has five TD passes to one pick and leads the league with a 121.4 rating. Julio Jones is off to another good start with nine catches for 172 yards and two scores. He is dealing with a calf strain but will play Monday. While running back Devonta Freeman was a fantasy monster last year, he's losing touches to Coleman this season. The latter has 20 carries along with seven receptions for 120 yards. Freeman has 28 carries but just four catches for 20 yards. Tight end Jacob Tamme leads the Falcons in targets (16) and receptions (11).
Just like last year, the Falcons aren't getting to the quarterback. They had a scant 19 sacks in 2015 and have one this year and just two tackles for loss. The team spent its 2016 first-round pick on Florida safety Keanu Neal, but he hasn't been able to play yet with a knee injury and isn't likely to debut here. The team has lost linebacker Paul Worrilow to a groin injury suffered vs. Oakland, and he's out at least four weeks. He was the team's leading tackler the past three seasons but hadn't been starting this year. I actually think Coach Dan Quinn, a defensive guy, could be in some trouble this year if the Falcons finish below .500 because owner Arthur Blank might want a coach with more buzz next season as the Falcons move into their new stadium.
Falcons at Saints Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New Orleans is -3 (-115) with a total of 53.5 that's the highest of Week 2. On the moneyline, the Saints are -160 and Falcons +140. On the alternate lines, the Saints are -3.5 (+110) and -2.5 (-140). Atlanta is 1-1 against the spread this season (1-0 on road) and 2-0 "over/under" (1-0 on road). New Orleans is 0-2 ATS (0-1 at home) and 1-1 O/U (1-0 at home).
The Falcons are 4-1 ATS in their past five Monday games. They are 1-7 ATS in their past eight vs. teams with a losing record and 1-9 ATS in the past 10 vs. NFC teams. The Saints have covered five straight vs. the NFC South. But they have covered just four of their past 14 at home overall. The under is 9-1-1 in Atlanta's past 11 vs. the NFC South. The over is 6-0-1 in New Orleans' past seven at home. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 5-1-1 in the previous seven.
Falcons at Saints Betting Prediction
Brees is 15-6 in his career vs. the Falcons and has thrown for 6,421 yards and 38 touchdowns against them. The Saints swept last year, 31-21 at home on a Thursday in Week 6 and 20-17 at the Georgia Dome in Week 17. Brees had only two TD throws combined but wasn't picked off.
This is such a huge game for the Saints not just because of their record but the anniversary that I can't see them losing it. Give the 2.5 points and go under the total because these Falcons-Saints games usually are a bit more low-scoring than we expect.
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