Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Atlanta Falcons (4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-0 SU, 6-0
ATS), NFL Week 8, 8:30 p.m. EST, Monday, November 2, 2009, Louisiana Superdome,
New Orleans, La., TV: ESPN

by Badger of

Point Spread: Falcons +10/Saints -10
Over/Under: 54

The New Orleans Saints will try and remain perfect on the season and
at the same time strengthen their lead in the NFC South Division when
they welcome the rival Atlanta Falcons and the rest of the ESPN
viewing world to the Louisiana Superdome on Monday Night Football
this week.

The Saints remained undefeated this season with one of the more impressive comebacks in recent NFL memory last Sunday, storming back
from 21 points down with 22 unanswered fourth-quarter points to beat
the Miami Dolphins on the road, 46-34. Quarterback Drew Brees had one
of his worst games as a professional with three interceptions and a
fumble, but his 1-yard plunge with two seconds remaining in the first
half sparked the Saints furious come-from-behind charge.

The Falcons on the other hand were dealt only their second loss of
the season on Sunday, but it was a nasty one as they were manhandled
by the Dallas Cowboys, 37-21. Atlanta and their young quarterback
Matt Ryan were held under 200 yards of total offense and forced into
three turnovers as the Cowboys took the Falcons to the woodshed in a
game that was worse then the 16-point margin of victory looks on paper.

It appears that the Saints comeback last week has finally swayed the
betting public, as well as Vegas oddsmakers too, that the Saints are
for real. Mondays primetime tilt opened with New Orleans listed at
large 10-point favorites at home and has held firm during early
wagering at the window.

The over/under total opened at 54 and has seen a little line movement early, moving up the hook to 54.5 at a few offshore sportsbooks, but
most books are still currently listing the total at 54.

The high opening total for this game is a direct reflection of the
offensive potential in this game, or more likely the defenses
inability to stop all of that offensive firepower on the field.

Its no secret that the Saints under head coach Sean Peyton continue
to be one of the most prolific and innovative offenses in the game.
With Brees under center and under full control, the Saints lead the
NFL in yards (427.3 ypg) and scoring (39.7 ppg) yet again this season.

But unlike the past years where it was mostly due to Brees and his
core of receivers in the passing game, this year the Saints are
getting unprecedented production out of their running game. The
Saints three-headed backfield of Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Mike
Bell have helped them earn the NFL 3rd-ranked rushing offense in the
early going, rushing for 156 yards per game so far.

Atlanta and Ryan are no slouch on offense by any means, but they are
having their struggles this season and its mostly due the fact that
teams have decided to stack the box in order to stop running back
Michael Turner. The Falcons are currently ranked 23rd in the league
in rushing (117.7 ypg), which is a far cry from the numbers they had
last season when they were at or near the top all year.

The lack of the running game has also hurt the Falcons play-action
passing game, as Atlanta is currently in the bottom half of the
league in that category as well with just 220 yards in the air a game.

But perhaps the biggest issue hurting the Falcons offense this season
is the lack of production from the defense. When the Falcons turned
heads and made the playoffs last season it was due to a strong
defensive unit, but this year the defense has slid down to 25th in
the league (368.3 ypg).

Last week the Falcons were sliced and diced by Tony Romo and the Cowboys passing game (311 yards, 3 TD), so Atlanta fans must be shivering at the thought of Peyton and Brees putting together a game
plan against the Falcons secondary this week.

Meanwhile, the Saints defense under new coordinator Greg Williams has
become one of the leagues best ball-hawking units this season.
Safety Darren Sharper has already returned three interceptions for
touchdowns this season (including one last week), and the unit as a
whole has improved so much that they are actually on the cusp of
becoming a top-10 unit in the NFL (366.7 ypg 11th).

The Saints have held the upper hand in this rivalry in recent years,
winning five of the last six games between the stripes. The Falcons
stunned them 34-20 in the Georgia Dome last season in November, but
the Saints held serve in the Superdome in December by a score of
29-25. The year before the Saints won in the Superdome, 22-16, and
have won four of the last five games in Louisiana dating back to the
2004 season.

In fact, the Saints have been tough to beat at home going 7-1 ATS in their last eight games in the Superdome and they are also 7-1-1 ATS
in their last nine games versus the NFC.

The Saints have also held the upper hand in this series against the
spread as well, covering the number in seven of the last 10 meetings.
But theres a large difference between last years point spread for
the game in the Superdome (Saints -3) and this years rather large 10-
point spread, so keep that in mind before you follow the betting
trend with blind faith.

The over is 4-1 in Atlantas last five games versus an NFC South opponent, while the over is 6-2 in the Saints last eight games versus
the NFC South.

Badgers Pick: I must admit Im a little surprised by the large 10-point spread in this game. Sure, the Saints have earned that much
respect, but this is still an NFC South rival game and I dont think
the Falcons defense is as bad as they showed against Dallas. My gut
tells me the Falcons will keep it closer than two scores. But the
wager Im making is on the over. The Saints had four turnovers last
week and still scored 46 points. They cant even stop themselves when
they try. Im taking the over of 54.