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

New Orleans Saints (12-0 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS), NFL Week 14, 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, December 13, 2009, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. TV: FOX
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Saints -10.5/Falcons +10.5
Over/Under: 51

At this point, it looks like the New Orleans Saints are unbeatable. Even when it looks like they are going to lose, they somehow find a way to win. Against the Washington Redskins last week, they found themselves down by 10 points late in the fourth quarter but found a way to tie the game up and win it in overtime. But the Saints shouldn’t look past the Atlanta Falcons, a division rival that almost knocked off the Saints last time they met and is desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

When these teams met in week eight on Monday Night Football, the Saints won the game, 35-27. The Falcons had a 14-7 lead after the first quarter but the Saints responded with three straight touchdowns to take a 28-14 lead at the half. But the Falcons kept it close for the rest of the game, despite not being able to win it. Michael Turner ran for 151 yards and a touchdown to pace the Falcons offense, but Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and that was the difference.

The Saints have had some miraculous wins this season. Against the Dolphins, they were down 24-3 in the second quarter before battling back for a 46-34 win. Their win over the Redskins was equally as incredible. Down 30-20 in the fourth quarter, Garrett Hartley kicked a field goal to make it 30-23 with 6:52 remaining. After getting the ball back, Drew Brees drove the Saints down the field and threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem with 1:19 left. In overtime, the Saints got all the way inside the 5-yard line and Hartley kicked an 18-yard field goal to win the game. Brees threw for 419 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Meachem had a breakout game with eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons started the season with a 4-1 record and looked like a sure-fire playoff team. But they went on to lose four of their next five games. All four of those losses were road games. They bounced back with a 20-17 win over the Buccaneers on a last-minute touchdown pass from Chris Redman to Roddy White after Ryan left the game early on with a toe injury and Turner left the game with an ankle injury. Against the Eagles last week, Ryan and Turner both sat out and the Falcons were blown out at home, 34-7. Now, the Falcons are 6-6 and they have to win this game and the rest of their games to have any chance of reaching the playoffs.

These teams know each other well, the Saints are coming off a tough win, and the Falcons rarely ever lose at home, so Atlanta certainly has a chance to win this game and end the Saints’ undefeated season. The key is whether or not Ryan and Turner will be healthy and able to play. If they are out there, this will be a tough battle. The Falcons are one of the best home teams in the league over the past two seasons. If they are going to pull off the upset, Ryan can’t turn the ball over like he did last time against the Saints. If Ryan and Turner are healthy, the Falcons can really move the ball and score a lot of points. But their defense must play much better than it did last week against the Eagles. The Falcons defensive backs have been awful lately but they have to step up against Brees and the Saints passing attack.

The Saints are 2-4 ATS in their last six games but 4-2 ATS on the road this season. The Falcons are 4-2 ATS at home this season. The total has gone over in five of their last seven games.

Ryno’s Pick: At home, the Falcons are one of the best teams in the NFC. On the road, it’s a different story. They started the season at 4-1 but they had to then play four of their next five games on the road and they lost those four road games. Then, Ryan and Turner got injured and they didn’t really have much of a chance without the two of them against the Eagles. But if Ryan and Turner are back, they can win this game. It was an eight-point game in New Orleans and the Saints barely got by the Redskins, so the Falcons will keep this game close. Assuming Ryan and Turner are playing, take the Falcons +10.5.