The 6-9 New Orleans Saints travel to Atlanta to take on the 8-7 Falcons with both teams having been eliminated from the playoffs. Atlanta won its second game in a row last week with a 20-13 victory over the previously undefeated Carolina Panthers. After a 5-0 start the Falcons lost 7 of 8 games and will be missing the playoffs for the third straight season. The Saints won last week for just the second time in their last 5 games when they defeated Jacksonville 38-27. The Saints offense ranks second this year with over 404 yards per game but their defense is ranked 31st as they give up an average of 413 yards per game.
The Saints gained over 540 yards last week as Drew Brees finished with a passer rating of 97.3. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 412 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. His favorite target was Brandin Cooks who had 5 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Tim Hightower had a nice day running the ball as he gained 122 yards on 27 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. Hightower also had 3 catches for 47 yards. If there was a negative for the offense it is that kicker Kai Forbath made only 1 of his 3 field goal attempts. Defensively, they were able to intercept Blake Bortles twice and had 2 sacks for a loss of 21 yards. They also did a good job stopping the run as Jacksonville gained 65 yards on 15 carries.
Atlanta played well both offensively and defensively as they limited Carolina to just 2 second half field goals while getting good production out of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. Ryan completed 23 of 30 passes for 306 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. Julio Jones caught 9 of those passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. Freeman had 73 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries while also catching 3 passes for another 17 yards. Defensively, they held Cam Newton to 142 passing yards with 0 touchdowns. They sacked him twice for a loss of 29 yards and recovered a fumble in the 4th quarter. They had some trouble stopping the run as Carolina gained 155 yards on just 20 carries.
These 2 teams met back in week 6 with the Saints beating the then unbeaten Falcons 31 – 21. Atlanta failed to recover as that loss started a stretch where they lost 7 out of 8 games including 6 in a row. The Saints are 7-7-1 against the spread this year including 3-4 on the road. The Falcons are 6-9 against the spread this year including 3-4 on the road. Marques Colston’s status for this game is questionable after he sat out Wednesday’s practice with a chest injury. The Falcons are favored by less than a field goal despite having home field advantage and coming off a win against the previously undefeated Carolina Panthers.
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