Falcons vs. Saints Odds & Picks: Taysom Hill & Co. Primed To Sweep Atlanta
Getty Images. Pictured: Taysom Hill
Falcons vs. Saints Odds
The Saints look to extend their lead for the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed and the NFC South division title as they take on the Falcons.
The Saints beat the Falcons, 24-9, in New Orleans just two weeks ago in Taysom Hill’s first career start. New Orleans was then handed a gift in Denver last week when all of the Broncos quarterbacks were out due to COVID-19 and a practice squad wide receiver had to run the offense.
The Saints hold a one-game lead over Seattle and Green Bay for the top overall seed in the NFC and need to take care of business on the road if they want to maintain that No. 1 spot.
As for the Falcons, this is yet another lost season. However, they did blow out the Raiders last week to get their fourth win of the season and their third in their last four games, so the Saints better come ready to play. Still, there appears to be value on the favorite.
New Orleans Saints
Even though Drew Brees went down with broken ribs two weeks ago, the Saints’ offense hasn’t skipped a beat with Hill under center. In their last two games, they’re gaining 5.34 yards per play, including 6.1 against the Falcons two weeks ago.
The Saints’ rushing attack has been one of the best in football, ranking fifth in rushing success and averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Hill especially has been a battering ram the last two games, gaining 4.65 yards per rush and scoring four touchdowns.
However, Hill doesn’t throw the ball all that often. He has only 39 pass attempts over the last two games for 7.8 yards per attempt. The Falcons have one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses, so I expect Sean Payton to call a few more pass plays than we’ve seen in Hill’s first two starts.
The heart and soul of this team has been its defense — the unit has really stepped up over the past four games, allowing a total of 28 points and only 3.91 yards per play.
The Saints are the best team in the NFL at stopping the run. They rank first in defensive rushing success and rushing explosiveness allowed, per Sharp Football Stats. Additionally, their secondary isn’t far off. The Saints are allowing only 6.9 yards per pass attempt and shut down Matt Ryan the last time these two teams met.
Ryan averaged only 6.3 yards per pass attempt and threw two picks in that matchup. The main reason for that was the Saints’ pass rush, which sacked Ryan eight times. If they are able to get similar pressure on Ryan again this Sunday, the Falcons are going to be in a load of trouble.
The box score from the Falcons’ 43-6 win over the Raiders tells a different story than the final result: The Falcons gained only 4.2 yards per play, which was actually the same average as the Raiders.
The passing offense has been Atlanta’s strength, but it hasn’t been elite by any means. Ryan is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, which is the exact same average as 2019. Ryan has also struggled over the last two weeks, throwing for slightly more than 400 yards between his last two games.
Ryan will get a boost with Julio Jones returning to the lineup after missing last week. But the problem for the Falcons’ offense is that it can’t run the ball: They’re 27th in rushing success and 29th in rushing explosiveness. Two weeks ago, the Falcons were only able to gain 52 yards on the ground against the Saints, and if the Falcons can’t develop a run game this time around, it’s going to be a struggle for them.
The Falcons have had all sorts of issues on defense, but the main problems lie in their secondary.
Atlanta has the NFL’s third-worst pass defense and is allowing 8.2 yards per attempt. The Falcons have also given up the most big plays through the air and rank dead last in passing explosiveness allowed.
Atlanta has been decent against the run, ranking in the top half of the league in defensive rushing success and explosive rushing allowed. The Saints were able to gain 4.6 yards on the ground two weeks ago against the Falcons, so Atlanta will need to find a way to shut down New Orleans’ run game.
With how good the Saints defense has been over the past four games, the Falcons are likely to struggle to move the ball — much like they did two weeks ago.
I have the Saints projected as -5.71 favorites, so there’s some value on them at -3.
PICK: Saints -3