Atlanta Falcons (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-2)
The Saints got a huge home win over the Buccaneers last week, but they still had a significant loss in that game, as quarterback Jameis Winston is now out for the season after tearing his ACL, leaving veteran journeyman backup Trevor Siemian under center. Siemian led the win in relief of Winston last week, but the Saints also won the turnover battle by 3 and had a pick six, which is not a sustainable way to win games, and they lost the yards per play battle by 2.3, which is much more predictive.
The Saints are in many ways healthier than they have been for most of the season, with a pair of talented offensive linemen in Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy and a trio of defensive starters in Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, and Kwon Alexander back in the lineup after significant absences, but the downgrade at quarterback will hurt them. Despite that, this line has moved up from favoring the Saints by 5.5 on the early line last week to favoring them by 6 this week, as the public bought into the Saints’ win over the Buccaneers.
The Saints are also unlikely to have the same effort this week as they had last week, now coming off of an emotional home victory, as teams cover at just a 41.4% rate all-time after a win as home underdogs of 4 points or more. It could be especially tough for the Saints to focus this week because last week’s win came against a tough divisional foe, while this week they face a sub-.500 Falcons team. The Saints also have to turn around and face the Titans next week and favorites of 6 or more cover at just a 44.1% rate all-time before facing an opponent whose winning percentage is 30% better than their current opponent’s winning percentage.
We aren’t really getting line value with the Falcons, who have faced just one team with a winning record and whose three wins came by a combined 12 points against teams that are a combined 5-18, but the Saints’ quarterback situation and general lack of an explosive passing game makes it hard to justify them being favored by this many points against anyone other than the worst teams in the league and the Falcons don’t quite qualify. Even if we aren’t getting much line value, the Falcons are worth a small play at +6 because of how bad of a spot the Saints are in.
New Orleans Saints 20 Atlanta Falcons 17
Pick against the spread: Atlanta +6