NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AT ATLANTA FALCONS (+6.5, 48.5)
The last time these NFC South rivals met it looked like they had a Thanksgiving Day meal a prior to the game, as all they did was trade field goals in the opening frame. But that could change this time around. Drew Brees has now had four games to get back in a groove with the offense, and he’s certainly looked it recently, as the Saints have scored 27 points in the first quarter in the last two games.
New Orleans has also been one of the best teams when it comes to first quarter scoring on the road. Its 6.4 first quarter points on the road ranks fourth in the league.
Meanwhile the Falcons have also found their groove early on in games, averaging 7.7 first quarter points per contest over their last three games (fourth best in the league over that span). Mix in the fact Atlanta gives up the seventh most first quarter points and we like the value with the Over in the opening frame.
Pick: Over 10 First Quarter Spread (+110)
FIRST HALF BET
After temporarily righting the ship, Atlanta was back to its signature struggles last week against the Buccaneers. The Falcons surrendered 446 total yards, including 313 through the air. And now they must contend with Brees and the Saints passing offense that appears to be getting back on track.
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Brees was clearly shaking off some rust in his first two starts since returning from a thumb injury, but he’s looked much more like himself the last two games throwing for 539 yards with six touchdowns and a 118.4 quarterback rating. And even though the Falcons had a few good games on defense they still rank 29th in DVOA against the pass.
With the Falcons ranking 28th in first half scoring, we like the Saints on the first half spread.
Pick: Saints -3.5 First Half Spread (-110)
One reason Brees has got his groove back is because he gets to throw to the best receiver in the NFL in Michael Thomas. “Can’t guard Mike” is right. The dude already has 1,242 yards and 104 receptions this year. And his last five games have been unreal, grabbing 51 passes for 610 yards. But maybe the most impressive part about Thomas has been his catch rate. He has 104 catches on 124 targets. Incredible.
Anyways he’s going up a Falcons pass D that we already mentioned stinks. They are coming off a game where Chris Godwin had seven catches for 184 yards and two scores and Thomas himself torched them just three weeks ago for 152 yards on 13 catches. Now, Thomas’ receiving total in this one is big, but we think he’s going back for a second helping. So, sit back and enjoy what should be another monster performance.
Pick: Micahel Thomas Over 107.5 Receiving yards
FULL GAME TOTAL
The total for this Thanksgiving throwdown sticks out like marshmallows in sweet potatoes. The number currently sits at 48.5, making it the first time since Nov. 13, 2011 that the Saints and Falcons have faced off with a total below 50. In fact, the lowest total they have seen in the last 10 matchups was 51.5. Now, they are 3-6-1 O/U those games, but maybe the number is low enough to shake up that trend.
We are likely getting a number like this because neither team has been a particularly good Over bet this season, and the Falcons Offense has clearly taken a step back this season.
Despite the Falcons scoring being up a bit the last three games, Matt Ryan hasn’t been particularly good. The former MVP is completing just 57 percent of his pass for 764 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions over the last three games and the Flacons run game has been nearly non-existent this season.
Ryan (377 passing yards, two TDs) and Julio Jones (11 catches, 147 yards) will likely need a similar performance to the one they had last thanksgiving against the Saints if they want to sweep the season series. Since this a lost season for the Falcons this rivalry game has even more meaning and they should put up enough of a fight at home to nudge this one Over the total.
Pick: Over 48.5
FULL GAME SIDE
If you go back and take a quick look at the boxscore for the game three weeks ago it’s hard to figure out that not only the Saints lost, let alone get blown out in a game where they manage to put up just nine points.
Brees was decent, Thomas was huge, they didn’t turnover the ball and the yardage was basically even. So, what was the problem?
First, the Saints abandoned the run game. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray combined for nine carries for just 36 yards. Nine! New Orleans has clearly identified that as a problem, rushing the ball 46 times the last two weeks. While the Falcons run defense is decent, expect the Saints to try and establish the ground game, even if it’s just to set up the pass.
Second, Brees looked a little uncomfortable in the pocket in his second game since returning from injury. The Falcons got to him for six sack that game, which is shocking considering they only have 18 for the season.
As mentioned previously, this game will mean a lot to the Falcons, but the Saints have revenge on their minds and have their eyes on a bye for the playoffs. If they don’t abandon the run and keep Brees upright and they will have a nice feast on Falcons, this Turkey Day.
Pick: Saints -6.5