Atlanta Falcons (5-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-4)
The Falcons won at home last week against the Redskins in overtime on a pick six, but the fact that the Falcons had to go to overtime really hurts them this week, as they go on the road on a short week to play the Saints in New Orleans on Thursday Night Football. Unsurprisingly, teams are 4-19 ATS since 1989 on Thursday Night Football after an overtime game, including 2-14 ATS on the road, 1-13 ATS on the road after a home game, and 0-6 ATS as road favorites. All of those are small sample sizes, but it makes sense. That sequence is just so draining.
One of the most obvious negative effects of the situation is the fact that Julio Jones could be on a snap count. Jones has been dealing with a hamstring problem all year and, while he’s still played very well overall on the season, he hasn’t been quite as good over the past 2 weeks, catching 9 passes for 105 yards and 0 touchdowns, as opposed to a ridiculous 34 catches for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first 3 games of the season. Playing well 3 days after an overtime game is going to be tough, even for him, and the Falcons’ weapons in the passing game after him (Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson, Jacob Tamme) are underwhelming. Despite that, the public is all over the Falcons as mere 3.5 point favorites here. This line might seem low, but the Falcons aren’t quite as good as their 5-0 record. They haven’t really played anyone good yet and, while the Saints aren’t exactly good, the Falcons have played close games with the Eagles, Giants, and Redskins and could easily have trouble with New Orleans this week on a short week, off of an overtime game.
All that being said, I wouldn’t put money on the Saints for a few reasons. For one, they’re missing significant guys with injury as well, particularly on offense, where left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Tom DeLito, and wide receiver Marques Colston are all out. Defensively, cornerback Damian Swann is out, while defensive end Bobby Richardson is highly questionable after not practicing all week. The Falcons have a couple guys out too, outside linebacker Justin Durant and center Mike Person, but the guys the Saints are missing are far more important, particularly Armstead. Armstead has been one of the best left tackles in the league this year when healthy and the Saints couldn’t pass protect at all last week against Philadelphia without him. On top of that, the Saints do have a harder game than the Falcons do on deck, as they have to go to Indianapolis, while Atlanta goes to Tennessee. That could provide a little bit more of a distraction and make it a little harder to focus this week, though those games are 10 days off and this is such a big rivalry that it could easily not matter.
At this point last year, I definitely would have put money on the Saints. There was a point last year where they had won 20 straight home games (18-1-1 ATS) and went 20-2 ATS off of a loss (with Drew Brees and Sean Payton) since 2008, including 12-1 ATS at home off of a loss. However, since then, they’re just 1-6 ATS at home, 5-6 ATS off of a loss, and 3-4 ATS at home off of a loss, so those trends have certainly lost some luster. I still think the Saints are the right side, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Atlanta Falcons 24 New Orleans Saints 23
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3.5