New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Atlanta Falcons (8-7)
The Falcons delivered the Carolina Panthers their first loss of the season last week, winning 20-13 at home as 7 point underdogs. It was certainly a legitimate win, as they won the rate of moving the chains differential battle 82.14% to 73.08%, but anyone betting them as 5.5 point home favorites here at home over the Saints is probably forgetting the fact that the Falcons lost by 38 in Carolina just a few weeks ago. The Falcons have also lost to the Colts, Vikings, 49ers, Buccaneers (twice), and these Saints in New Orleans, while 6 of their 8 wins have come by a touchdown or less, including near losses to the Jaguars, Titans, Redskins, Eagles, and Giants. They rank just 16th in rate of moving the chains differential, and the Saints are only one spot behind them in 17th, so the Falcons don’t really have any business being favored by 5.5 points here.
There wasn’t an early line posted last week for this game, because Drew Brees’ immediate future looked questionable because of a foot injury, but Brees and the Saints played well last week at home against Jacksonville despite Brees’ injury. If there was an early line listed, I think it probably would have been around 3 or so (where I think it should still be), meaning the line shifted probably 2.5 points or so because of the Falcons’ upset victory last week. I love fading significant line movements whenever it makes sense, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play, and, though it might not seem like it, a shift from 3 to 5.5 or so is really significant, considering both 3 and 4 are key numbers. About 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 or fewer points so a backdoor cover is a very strong possibility here, even if the Falcons do manage to significantly outplay the Saints.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but teams are 46-72 ATS since 2012 off of a win as home underdogs. For one, home upset victories probably often lead to significant unwarranted line movements. Two, teams can also by pretty overconfident off of victories like that. The Falcons just won their Super Bowl last week and, while the Saints are a big divisional rival, the Falcons could still get caught a little bit off guard by them, especially with the off-season on deck and no hope of making the post-season. The Saints are not going to the post-season either, but they’re still playing hard, following the example of Brees, who is playing through a major foot injury during a lost season and they should be 100% focused for their division rival this week. I’m taking the points with confidence.
Atlanta Falcons 34 New Orleans Saints 31
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +5.5