New Orleans Saints (7-8 SU, 10-5 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (10-5 SU, 10-5 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, January 1st, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
by Bob, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ATL -6.5 / NO +6.5
Over/Under Total: 56.5
This Sunday, the first day of 2017, there are not many NFL games that have meaning. Detroit and Green Bay is a big one and there are a couple of other games that have playoff seeding implications in the AFC. One of the few games in the NFC that actually have a little meaning is this one in Atlanta when the Saints come to town to take on their long time rival, the Falcons. Atlanta has already clinched the NFC South division, but they also somehow, someway managed to jump from the 4th seed to the 2nd seed last weekend. A win at home against New Orleans will mean Atlanta secures that 2nd seed in the playoffs and will have not only a Bye in the first round, but will not have to travel anywhere unless they end up facing Dallas for the NFC Title game.
New Orleans has been on the decline for a few years now, but they still have a very dangerous offense and not only that, they have a strong hatred for the Atlanta Falcons. New Orleans would love nothing more than to win in the Georgia Dome and keep Atlanta from the second seed. This has been a very tense rivalry for decades and in the eye of the national media, it is not a top NFL Rivalry but I live in Atlanta, do not let the national perception fool you, this is the most underrated rivalry in all of the NFL.
Atlanta sits as a 6.5 point home favorite and I think this line will end up being an complete touchdown by kickoff. The total points are set at 56.5 and honestly, that may be a tad low if you ask me. Both of these teams can score, and score fast. As of Wednesday morning, much of the action is on the Falcons which is why I feel that the line will bump up to seven points here soon. 64% of the action likes the Dirty Birds to cover and the exact same number of people like this game to go over the 56.5. As for these two teams this season, both are 10-5 against the spread. Atlanta has already beat New Orleans this season with a 45-35 win over the Saints in New Orleans…and honestly, the game was not even that close.
Can New Orleans come into Atlanta and get the road upset? Absolutely. This team’s offense is not as good as the Falcons in 2016, but they are still legit. The Saints are averaging almost 30 points per game and Drew Brees, as always, has the passing game as the top in the NFL averaging 315 yards per game in the air. Combine that with another 100+ on the ground per game and the offense is deadly. The problem with this Saints team is its defense. The defense has been pretty bad going on three or four years now but as of late, they have played a little better…a little. New Orleans still gives up about 28 per game and only two teams in the NFL are worse. That is the key to not only winning this game against the Falcons, but just keeping it close. The Saints need to find a way to pressure Matt Ryan. Ryan is having one of the best seasons of any QB in NFL history and he leads the league in most passing categories including passer rating. When Matt Ryan has time in the pocket, he WILL carve you up. The only way to slow him down is pressure. The Falcons O-Line has improved in the last year or so, but it is still far from a great line and with the right blitz packages, the Saints could make things tough on the Falcons offense.
The Falcons will be playing everyone and will treat this like any other game, actually, they are even treating it like the first playoff game. No one will rest. No one without injury will be on a play count. The Falcons need that two seed and they must win this weekend to get it. What are the keys for the Falcons? Well, that is easy, just play Falcons football. People point out often that while Atlanta has a great offense, their defense is young and weak. I watch this team closely, I am actually a life long fan and one of the biggest critics in most cases, but this Falcons TEAM is for real. I never say this, EVER, about my Falcons, but these guys could win the NFC and make the Super Bowl. I hate putting that out there because as an Atlanta sports fan I know heartbreak and choke jobs, trust me. There is just something about this team that feels different. Not only has the offense clicked since day one, but in the last five weeks, the Falcons have a top five NFL defense…shocking isn’t it? Vic Beasley has come into his own in his second year in the pros, he is actually leading the league in sacks after being deemed a bust just eight months ago. Rookies Deion Jones and Keanu Neal look like they are stars in the making and lets not forget, the Falcons defense is playing like this without their best corner, Desmond Trufont and they have also had to give veteran Dwight Freeney limited snaps due to age and injury. This Falcons team is legit. I tell people all the time, stop worrying about history. If history mattered in sports then the Cubs should not have won the World Series and the Cleveland Cavaliers should have never came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors. Forget history, we are in the now and these Atlanta Falcons are on a mission.
Well after all the fan boy talk, which I hate doing when it comes to making wagers, I just like this Falcons team a lot and they seem to be all on the same page at just the right time. They have handled business ever since blowing a lead against the Kansas City Chiefs and they have blown everyone out since that afternoon in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons will not only beat the Saints, the Falcons will dominate this game from beginning to end. I like the Atlanta Falcons to win this game 45-20 as they clinch the NFC’s number two seed in the very last regular season game ever to be played in the Georgia Dome.
Bob’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: TAKE THE ATLANTA FALCONS -6.5 AND TAKE OVER THE POSTED TOTAL OF 56.5
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