Saints vs. Falcons Odds, Picks, Predictions: How To Find Betting Value on Over/Under In NFL Week 18
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Taysom Hill.
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Saints vs. Falcons Odds
|Time||4:25 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
At 8-8, the New Orleans Saints still have a chance to make the playoffs. On Sunday, a win on the road against the Falcons, coupled with a 49ers loss to the Rams, would clinch a wild-card spot for the Saints.
If you’re looking for an actual projection, Football Outsiders estimates New Orleans’ playoff chances at 43.2%.
As for the Falcons, they were eliminated from playoff contention last week after a 29-15 loss to the Bills. While the motivation for this game lies with the Saints, New Orleans has to win the game in a manner that suits the current personnel of its team.
I’ll share my thoughts on why a recent quarterback change for the Saints allows them to control the pace better, which in turn leads to lower-scoring games.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Saints vs. Falcons Injury Report
- T Terron Armstead (knee): Out
- CB Bradley Roby (shoulder): Out
- CB P.J. Williams (ankle): Out
- DE Marcus Davenport (ankle): Questionable
- T Ryan Ramczyk (knee): Questionable
- RB Mark Ingram II (knee): Questionable
- TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring): Questionable
- WR Frank Darby POS Full Name (shoulder): Questionable
- RB Qadree Ollison POS Full Name (quad): Questionable
- OL Jalen Mayfield (back): Questionable
Saints vs. Falcons Matchup
|Saints Offense||DVOA Rank||Falcons Defense|
|Saints Defense||DVOA Rank||Falcons Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Saints Find Offensive Identity Without Winston
This was always going to be a challenging season for the Saints, given Drew Brees’ retirement. He was an extension of the coaching staff on the field as he could practically run the offense in his sleep by the end of his career.
While his experience was undoubtedly a benefit, the downside was that Brees also lost some of his arm strength and struggled to stretch the field vertically.
To compensate for those deficiencies, the Saints went to work on building their defense. Since the 2017 season, the New Orleans defense has finished in the top eight in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric every year.
With that kind of unit, I suspect that Saints head coach Sean Payton envisioned replacing Brees with a quarterback who could manage the game just as he did. And with two quarterbacks with knowledge of the offense already on the roster, Payton may have been somewhat reluctant to bring someone in from outside the organization.
After a preseason quarterback competition, Jameis Winston won the starting job, and things seemed to be going according to plan as the Saints started 4-2 on the campaign. However, Winston tore his ACL in Week 8, and with Taysom Hill sidelined with a concussion, the Saints turned to journeyman Trevor Siemian. Despite a 9:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, New Orleans lost all four games Siemian started.
One glaring problem I noticed is that New Orleans failed to sustain long drives with Siemian under center. Per rbsdm.com, he ranks 31st in third-down success rate for quarterbacks with at least 40 qualifying plays.
Hill later replaced Siemian and added an extra dimension to the Saints’ run-pass option (RPO) schemes. That allows the Saints to slow the game down and limit their opponents’ possessions.
Per TeamRankings, the Saints rank sixth with the fewest plays per game (61.3). However, they rank second with 56.3 plays per game over their past three games. That’s a big reason we saw such a low total of 37.5 in each of the past two Saints games.
What Should We Expect From the Falcons?
If you’re a Falcons fan, how excited will you be to head to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a game one week after the team was eliminated from playoff contention? The city of Atlanta isn’t necessarily considered to have rabid fans, so I suspect that there could be quite a few empty seats in the building.
Furthermore, it’s not as if the Falcons are playing an exciting brand of football at the moment. They’re even more offensively challenged than the Saints, as Football Outsiders ranks them 28th overall in offensive DVOA. Moreover, both the Falcons and Saints have identical over/under records, as the under has cashed in 10 of the 16 games for each team.
Sunday’s game will be a rematch of the November meeting that Atlanta won 27-25. What’s interesting about that game is that the Falcons led 17-3 after three quarters. The Saints then mounted a fierce comeback, leading to 32 points in the final 15 minutes.
Given the importance of this game for New Orleans, I don’t think Payton and the Saints want to play such a high variance game that could fall out of their control. It’s worth noting that Siemian was the quarterback under center for the Saints in that game, but I suspect that New Orleans will want to play this game at a much slower pace with Hill starting.
This looks to be a challenging game for Atlanta to try and dust itself off and compete. I often believe that teams have to generate their offenses, which means being precise even in the subtlest of things like route running and zone-blocking schemes.
Since Atlanta defeated New Orleans in Week 9, it’s averaged 14.75 points over its next eight games. That was when the Falcons were still competing for a possible postseason berth. Now that those chances are long gone, I don’t think we can now trust the Falcons to play above that scoring average when there’s nothing at stake.
Saints vs. Falcons Predictions
Even with this being a must-win game for the Saints, there is some trepidation with laying 3.5 points with Taysom Hill at quarterback. New Orleans’ game plan will likely utilize Hill’s strengths in some of their run-pass-option packages to control the game’s pace.
I also feel you can’t underestimate the role of the Saints defense in this spot. I’d expect them to carry on with how they’ve played in recent weeks against a Falcons team that could be struggling to find much motivation heading into this game.
Combining the two scenarios does lend credence to the assertion that points could be at a premium in this contest.
Since Sean Payton became the Saints head coach in 2006, the total is 17-11-1 to the under in this meeting and 5-1 to the under in the past six meetings, per our Action Labs data. You can grab the under at 40 as it’s still available at multiple sportsbooks.
Check out where the latest odds are here to make sure you’re getting the highest number possible
The final day of the regular season in the NFL can often be tricky and as a result, I won’t be risking any more than one-half unit on any of my wagers.
Pick: Under 40 (0.5 unit) | Bet to: 40
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