The New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons headline tonight's Thursday Night Football. We have followed this game from it's opening point, and now that the lines have settled, where are we placing our NFL picks?
It’s Geaux Time for the New Orleans Saints. They need a win this
Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons if they’re going to make a serious run at
a Wild Card spot. And their future looks dim according to the NFL odds.
Imagine how great this matchup would have been if the Saints had won
last week. It still looks like a rare must-see game for Thursday Night Football, given the rivalry between these two clubs,
but some of the air was let out when New Orleans lost 31-21 to the San
Francisco 49ers as a 1-point home dog. That leaves the Saints 5-6 (6-5 ATS) on
the season and with just a 4.8 percent chance of making the playoffs according
to Mike Harris’ calculations.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is a virtual lock at 10-1 (6-4-1 ATS), four
games ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South with five games to
play. Can the Falcons stay motivated this week as 3.5-point home faves on the
Last Chance to Dance
The betting public says otherwise. The Saints are getting nearly 58
percent support according to our expanded beta consensus report, with nearly 62
percent of the action. But of course they are. New Orleans remains one of the
most beloved teams in the nation, and a highly profitable one of late at 6-2
ATS in its last eight games.
It’s been that kind of year in the Big Easy. The Saints were easy fade
candidates early in the season with the Bountygate scandal and the turnover in
personnel on defense. They were also easy follow candidates once the
suspensions started lifting and the players and coaches started rejoining the
team. One lucky bounce here and there, and the Saints could easily be 7-4 right
But they’re not. The updated efficiency stats through Week 12 have New
Orleans playing well enough to earn 5.3 Estimated Wins. That’s not far behind
the Falcons, though. Because they’ve played the No. 30-ranked strength of
schedule in the league (ahead of only Pittsburgh and Miami), Atlanta’s 10
victories only translate to 5.8 Estimated Wins. Overrated~!
Be that as it may, the Falcons have been playing better football than
the Saints this season. And motivation really shouldn’t be a problem this
Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, NFLN). Atlanta is fighting for valuable playoff seeding,
and would love some revenge in front of the home fans after losing 31-27 to the
Saints (+1) in Week 10 at the Superdome. That’s four straight SU and ATS losses
for Atlanta in this rivalry.
Be sure to check out my NFL Picks on the Total for tonight's games.
Revenge will be easier to come by now that LB Sean Weatherspoon (58
tackles, three sacks) is back in the lineup. He missed three games with an
ankle injury including the Saints game before returning in last week’s 24-23
nailbiter over Tampa Bay (+1 at home). Atlanta was 1-2 ATS in Weatherspoon’s
On the other hand, CB Asante Samuel (13 passes defended, two INTs, one
TD) is questionable after re-injuring his shoulder against the Buccaneers.
Samuel has been a pleasant surprise as a veteran offseason pick-up who appeared
to be running out of gas at age 31. If he sits, New Orleans could take
advantage. Wideouts Marques Colston and Lance Moore will both be in the
starting lineup despite needing in-game concussion tests last week.
My original pick was Atlanta, and I’m not budging. The Saints offensive
line is in trouble with RT Bryce Harris (broken leg) going on injured reserve
and Zach Strief only practicing on a limited basis Tuesday. Sean Weatherspoon
NFL Picks: Take Atlanta –3.5
(–102) at Matchbook