NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
I don't know if it was planned or not, but all three Thanksgiving games this year are divisional matchups, with Bears-Lions kicking things off on the holiday followed by Redskins-Cowboys and then what should be the most offensively fun and perhaps highest-scoring game of Week 12, Falcons-Saints. It's the first time New Orleans hosts a Turkey Day game.
Can't sit here and promise you a Falcons-Saints result, but I will say this: It will be much more entertaining than last year's Thanksgiving night game between the Giants and Redskins in the rainy slop. That may have been the least-watchable game of 2017.
The NFC South race is clearly over as New Orleans (9-1) has a three-game lead over Carolina and five on Atlanta (4-6). The Saints need to keep their foot on the gas to ensure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and not have to go visit the Rams in a potential NFC title game. Only a handful of teams in the current playoff format (1990) have made the playoffs after starting 4-6. I highly doubt the Falcons will join that group as they have too many flaws and have been hit too hard by injury this year. They are currently 10th in the NFC and still have to visit (and likely lose to) Green Bay and Carolina.
Falcons at Saints Betting Story Lines
This may go down as the highest-scoring regular season in league history, so it would only be fitting for the Saints to set the NFL record for points scored. That's 606 by the 2013 Denver Broncos, which averages out to 37.9 per game. New Orleans is averaging 37.8.
On Sunday, I really thought the Eagles would give the Saints all they could handle, but it turned into the worst loss for a defending Super Bowl champion ever, 48-7. The Saints became the fourth team in NFL history to score 45-plus points in three straight games, and their 144 over the past three weeks are the most in any three-game stretch in franchise history.
It could have easily been 62-7 if the Saints wanted. Drew Brees has done everything in his career but win an NFL MVP Award, and he might be the favorite now. Brees threw for 363 more yards and four scores - his rating of 126.9 would be a league record as would his ridiculous 76.9 completion percentage; Brees holds the record of 72 percent last year. It was his 23 rd career game with at least four TD passes and no picks, passing Tom Brady (22) for most in NFL history.
Brees has 25 TD passes and one pick on the year. Just stupid. If you try and shut down No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas, Brees simply finds rookie Tre'Quan Smith, who scorched the Eagles for 10 catches, 157 yards and a score. Try and shut down running back Alvin Kamara, and the Saints have Mark Ingram. Just a stacked offense. The Saints have scored on 62.5 percent of their offensive possessions. That would destroy the 16-game NFL record of 53 percent by the 2007 Patriots. How this team lost Week 1 at home to Tampa Bay is baffling, although the defense was really bad early in the year and has since come on.
As for Atlanta, I thought the Falcons found themselves in a three-game winning streak that got them to 4-4, but now that looks like fool's gold as it came against bad teams in the Bucs, Giants and Redskins (yes, I think that's a bad team even though it leads the NFC East). Matt Ryan & Co have managed just 35 points in back-to-back losses in Cleveland and Sunday vs. Dallas. The Dirty Birds had just nine points until midway through the fourth quarter against the Cowboys before rallying to tie. Alas, that leaky, injury-ravaged defense then let Dallas march right down the field and kick the winning field goal.
Ryan is having nearly as good a season as Brees, throwing for 3,306 yards, 22 TDs and four picks. Julio Jones has had at least 100 yards receiving in five straight games. But the Falcons always seem to shoot themselves in the foot. Maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing to get a Top 10 draft pick, land a stalwart defender and come roaring back in 2019.
Falcons at Saints Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New Orleans is a 13.5-point favorite (+105) with a total of 59.5. On the moneyline, the Saints are -650 and Falcons +475. On the alternate lines, the Saints are -14 (+118), -13 (-102), -12.5 (110) and -12 (-115). Atlanta is 3-7 against the spread (1-3 on road) and 6-4 "over/under" (2-2 on road). New Orleans is 8-2 ATS (3-2 at home) and 5-5 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Falcons are 7-2 ATS in their past nine on Thursday. The Saints are 5-0 ATS in their past five after scoring at least 30 points in the previous game. They are 14-6 ATS in their past 20 NFC South games. The over is 5-1 in Atlanta's past six following an ATS loss. The over is 4-0 in New Orleans' past four in the division. It's 14-6 in its past 20 vs. teams with a losing record. The underdog is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 3-1-1 in the previous five in New Orleans.
Falcons at Saints Betting Prediction
Wouldn't shock me if we saw a game like we did between these two in Week 3 when the Saints won a wild 43-37 OT game as short underdogs. Not sure if Brees ever ran for two TDs in a game before but he did there, tying it at 37-all on a 7-yard run with 1:15 in regulation and winning it on a 1-yard run with 2:55 left in OT - the Falcons never got possession. There were 941 yards of offense and neither team turned it over. Brees threw for 396 and three scores, while Ryan threw for 374 and five. Just good, fun football.
Do I think Atlanta wins here? No. When this opened as low as Saints -10, I would have bought that number down to -9.5 and taken New Orleans. Now? I think the Falcons are quite competitive here as they have nothing to lose and it's an opponent they know very well. I'll be waiting for an alternate line of 14.5 and taking the points. Let's go over that big total. Call it 40-30 or something for the Saints.
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