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Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints Pick
New Orleans Saints (5-6 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (10-1 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 8:20 p.m. EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
TV: NFL Network/DirecTV 212
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: N.O. +3.5/ATL -3.5
Over/Under Total: 56
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The game that the Atlanta Falcons have had circled for the past 18 days will finally arrive this Thursday, when they host the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints in the Georgia Dome in primetime on Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network.
The 10-1 Falcons only have one blemish on their record this season, courtesy of the Saints in a week 10 loss in the Superdome, 31-27, and they’ve been waiting for weeks to try and enact revenge. They barely made it to this week, slipping past Arizona a week ago and needing a late touchdown run from Michael Turner to sneak past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, 24-23. But as they say a win is a win.
New Orleans finally had their momentum stopped and their three-game win streak snapped when they gave away a win at home last Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, 31-21. Drew Brees threw two critical interceptions, and both were returned for interceptions, and the Saints couldn’t dig out of the big hole in the loss to the Niners. The loss was especially disheartening for the Saints since they stood to make up ground in the NFC wildcard chase since everyone ahead of them lost on Sunday.
Now the Saints almost need to win out the final five weeks of the season to get back into the wildcard chase, and with three tough road games on still on the schedule (at NYG, at Dallas) starting this week in the Georgia Dome, the lights are starting to dim.
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With a short week to prepare, oddsmakers set a pretty cautious opening point spread listing the Falcons as 3.5-point favorites at home in the dome. Less than 24 hours in, there hasn’t been enough action to move the number in either direction yet either.
The over/under total opened at 55.5 and has gone up the hook at a few offshore sportsbooks to 56.
The total is set so high because the Falcons and Saints possess two of the top scoring offenses in the NFL. Everyone knows that Brees and the Saints are one of the best passing attacks (291 ypg - 5th) in the league, capable of striking quick from just about anywhere on the field (28 ppg - 5th), but this season it’s actually Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds that are tossing the ball all around (298 ypg - 2nd) and putting points up in bunches (26.7 ppg - 8th).
The addition of Julio Jones to the Falcons offense has given them one of the most dangerous deep threats in the game, and when you combine him with “possession” guys like Roddy White and Tony Gonzales, the Falcons have quickly become the potent offense that’s held them back in the past. The fact that the Saints are still statistically the worst defense in the league (allowing 455 ypg) should make Ryan and crew salivate when looking at the game tape, although they have played better in recent weeks since leader Jonathan Vilma has returned from his knee injury/suspension.
One key area to keep an eye on as kickoff approaches Thursday is the health of the Saints offensive line. Zach Strief (groin) and Bryce Harris both missed significant time in the 49ers game, and Brees spent more time on his back and scrambling away from pressure than he’d like, so their return this week will be huge (both listed as questionable).
Injuries may also affect the Falcons ability to stop Brees and the Saints, since both starting corners Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (concussion) left last week’s game at Tampa early and are listed as questionable for Thursday as well.
In their week 10 matchup both Ryan (411 yards) and Brees (298 yards) threw for three touchdowns, but the game turned on the Saints running game as the combo of Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas gained 148 yards rushing (7.1 ypc). The Falcons also had a few crucial penalties (53 yards) that kept them from covering as 1-point favorites on the road.
If you’re looking for a betting trend angle to capitalize on, the fact this game is on Thursday night might be key. Since 1993 the Saints are 3-3 SU but only 1-5 ATS, while the Falcons are 4-3 SU and a solid 6-1 ATS in Thursday games. The Saints typically play well in November (9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS), but the Falcons have played well when they’ve played back-to-back games against NFC South division rivals (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS).
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Saints are having issues along the offensive line, and the short week won’t offer them much time to get healthy and iron out those problems. New Orleans has to win, but the Falcons are motivated by the loss two weeks ago and all of the talk the Saints put on the bulletin board following it. I’m betting the Falcons minus the points.
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