The Thanksgiving Day football feast concludes with an NFC South showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. At home, the Saints are listed as 13-point favorites with an over/under of 60.5 points.
This could very easily be a do-or-die game for Atlanta. The Falcons looked like they were making a playoff push, only to suffer a serious setback with back-to-back losses to the Browns and Cowboys. Even at 4-6, Atlanta is still within striking distance of a wild-card spot. However, a third straight loss to drop them to 4-7 could be the end of the line for the Falcons.
The Saints, on the other hand, only seem to get better each week. New Orleans has scored at least 45 points in their last straight games, all while extending their winning streak to nine games. New Orleans now owns a three-game cushion over the Panthers in the NFC South, even if they can’t afford to blink if they want to hold off the Rams for the top seed in the NFC.
The word “unstoppable” should not be used lightly, but it’s not a stretch to use it to describe the New Orleans offense. The Saints have scored over 40 points in half of their games, including their last three. Drew Brees has never looked better in his career, and it doesn’t hurt that the Saints have two running backs who are capable of carrying the offense for extended periods of time if they need to.
With so few teams having any kind of success slowing down the Saints, the Atlanta defense isn’t likely to have any better luck. In their defense, the Falcons have shown some modest signs of improvement in recent weeks. On the other hand, those games have come against teams like the Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys that all have limitations on offense. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they will have no such fortune against the Saints on Thursday.
Just the Two of You?
Offensively, the Falcons have been good all year. If Atlanta’s record were better, Matt Ryan would be a serious MVP candidate this year. Julio Jones has also found his groove lately, scoring a touchdown in three straight games and going over 100 yards receiving in six of his last seven games. As usual, those two are forming a dynamic duo for the Atlanta offense.
However, Atlanta’s supporting cast just isn’t doing enough at the moment. The team’s running game has been lacking all season without Devonta Freeman. Complementary receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohammed Sanu have also seen their productivity slow in recent weeks. That has caused the Atlanta offense to sputter just a little the past couple of weeks, which is something they can’t afford to have happen if they get into a shootout against the Saints.
This may be the week that Atlanta’s playoff hopes come to an end. With an unreliable defense, the Falcons are going to have to score on almost every possession to have a chance in this game. However, the New Orleans defense is better than people realize. They should get enough stops to create some separation and hand the Falcons their third straight loss. Bet on the Saints to cover the 13-point spread against Atlanta on Thanksgiving night.