Gear up for a tight one, as the Atlanta Falcons opened as slight 3.0-point favorites over the New Orleans Saints in their Week 3 matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00pm EST on September 23rd.
Without Mark Ingram (4-game suspension) to tote the rock, this New Orleans’s offense has reverted to the pass-happy attack it was circa 2016. When Drew Brees is your QB, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the Saints have found some success (682 passing yards, 5 TDs). Through two games, they have the fourth-ranked passing attack and are averaging 30.5 points per game (6th).
Brees is leaning heavily on his favorite pass-catcher, Michael Thomas (269 receiving yards and 3 TDs). Thomas already has 30 targets on the year. Running back Alvin Kamara is second on the team with 18, and no other receiver has more than 13.
Brees and Thomas connected for 89 yards and two TDs against the Browns last week, and will look to light-up Atlanta the same way on Sunday.
The Saints have needed every ounce of production from Brees and Thomas, as their ground game has been deplorable minus Ingram, picking up a horrendous 2.9 YPC (31st). The team was hoping reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara would fill in seamlessly as the primary ball carrier, but with just 75 rushing yards on 21 attempts, he’s proving to be much more effective in the change-of-pace, satellite-back role he perfected last season.
Unless the defense all of a sudden finds its 2017 form, New Orleans is going to need the offense to be firing on all cylinders in Week 3,. The Saints are surrendering 33.0 PPG, ranking 30th in the NFL. That’s mostly due to a 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 1, but they weren’t exactly a shutdown unit in last week’s narrow 21-18 win over Cleveland. They need several special teams miscues by the Browns to escape with the win.
Their defense is getting lit up through the air, in particular, allowing an inflated 325.5 passing yards per game (29th).
Saints vs Falcons Statistical Comparison
|28.0 (4th)||PPG in 2017||22.1 (15th)|
|30.5 (6th)||PPG in 2018||21.5 (20th)|
|391.2 (2nd)||Yards per game in 2017||364.8 (8th)|
|375.0 (14th)||Yards per game in 2018||370.5 (15th)|
|20.4 (10th)||PPG against in 2017||19.7 (8th)|
|33.0 (30th)||PPG against in 2018||21.0 (12th)|
|336.5 (17th)||Yards allowed per game in 2017||318.4 (9th)|
|428.0 (29th)||Yards allowed per game in 2018||335.5 (11th)|
Atlanta’s offense couldn’t find the end zone in Week 1 (18-12 loss at Philadelphia), continuing a concerning trend from 2017; but they righted the ship in Week 2, racking up four touchdowns against Carolina in 31-24 win. Also down their lead back (Devonta Freeman) in Week 2, Atlanta got a nice day from back-up Tevin Coleman, who now has 126 yards (11th-most in the NFL) and one rushing TD on the year.
As a whole, the Falcons’ ground game ranks eighth in the league, averaging an impressive 122.0 rushing yards per game.
Matt Ryan and the passing attack (16th) play up to their potential and provide a better complement, this offense could return to the upper echelons of the league, i.e. where it was in 2016.
Ryan has a golden opportunity to gain some confidence this week, facing a Saints defense that ranks 29th against the pass.
Defensively, the Falcons had high hopes for their young, speedy defense this year, and it looked solid in Week 1. However, it’s already been decimated by injuries (S Keanu Neal and LB Deion Jones are both out for the year) and that showed last week as Cam Newton led his own undermanned Panther offense to 24 points.
With the obvious small sample size caveat, Atlanta’s defense has been weak against the run (117.0 rushing yards per game, 24th overall) and better against the pass (218.5 passing yards per game, 10th overall). They haven’t seen a passing attack like New Orleans’ yet this year, though. They’ve only had to contend with the Nick Foles-version of the Eagles and a Panther team who’s leading receiver (Christian McCaffrey) is also their RB1.
New Orleans beat the Falcons, 23-13, the last time these two teams met (December 24th, 2017). The Saints were 5.5-point favorites in that game.
The Falcons won the three prior meetings, however, and have won the last two in Atlanta.
ATS Betting Trends (2017-18 Combined)
|New Orlens Saints||Atlanta Falcons|
|NO is 10-10 ATS overall||ATL is 9-11 ATS overall|
|NO is 4-4 ATS away||ATL is 6-3 ATS at home|
|NO is 2-3 ATS as an away underdog||ATL is 6-3 as a home favorite|
|NO is 4-4 ATS in division games||ATL is 4-3 ATS in division games|
|NO is 8-4 ATS after a win||ATL is 5-6 ATS after a win|
Prediction: Atlanta defends its home turf
In Weeks 1 and 2, the Falcons proved, yet again, that they are a different team at home. The Saints, meanwhile, have always been much more potent in the Superdome than on the road. The recent history between these teams features a lot of tight games regardless of location, but the Saints don’t look like themselves yet, while the Falcons found a bit of a groove in Week 2.
A push is a serious possibility, but I’ll side with the home team and lay the field goal in a crucial early divisional matchup.