New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons Preview and Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-7) -5, 42.5 O/U at Atlanta Falcons (3-9) +5, 42.5 O/U, Georgia Dome, 8:30 PM Eastern, Monday
by Badger of

The New Orleans Saints will be fighting for their playoff lives when they travel to face the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football on ESPN.

The Saints (5-7) enter Mondays game off of one of their worst losses in recent memory, a stunning 27-23 defeat at the hands of NFC South rival Tampa Bay. It wasnt the fact that the Saints lost to the Buccaneers, it was how they lost that hurt so bad.

Nursing a 23-20 lead late in the game, the Saints for some reason called a double reverse that resulted in a fumble deep in their own territory. The Bucs cashed in a few plays later to steal the game and force some hard questions for head coach Sean Peyton and his staff. Instead of sitting in a solid position for a wild card spot, now the Saints are three games back of the Bucs in the NFC South and will likely have to win out the rest of the schedule just to have a chance at the postseason.

The Falcons (3-9) have had a season they would like to forget, starting back before the team even stepped between the lines with the soap opera that surrounded their quarterback, Michael Vick.

Without Vick the Falcons have rotated between Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Byron Leftwich at QB, and the musical chairs at the most important position has doomed the Falcons from the start. Atlanta has lost three games in a row, the most recent being a 28-16 loss at St. Louis last Sunday, and will be playing for (or not playing for) a high draft pick instead of a playoff chance as they sit in the NFC South cellar.

Sportsbooks have installed the Saints as 5-point favorites at the start of the week, with an over/under total of 42.5.

The Saints offense has not enjoyed the success this season that they had last year, despite returning almost all of the same pieces. They did lose running back Deuce McAllister early in the season, and without him the Saints have failed to rush the ball effectively (only 86 yards per game - 28th in NFL) even with Reggie Bush as his replacement. Drew Brees has struggled at times while trying to shoulder the load, but still throws for 258.7 yards per game (5th). Overall the Saints score just 22.2 points per game.

The Falcons offense was supposed to be high-powered under first-year coach Bobby Petrino, but it has been nothing of the sort. Without a consistent option at quarterback, the Falcons muster just 299.8 yards per game (26th) and are second to last in points per game with just a 14.2 per game average.

The Falcons might be able to get some things to work on offense this week though, as the Saints sport one of the weakest defenses in the league. The Saints are 26th overall allowing over 350 yards per game, are 28th versus the pass (249.5 - 28th) and also allow 23.2 points per contest (22nd). This same defense did hold the Falcons to only 16 points in their first meeting back in October, a 22-16 victory for the Saints.

Atlantas defense is strictly middle of the pack statistically, ranking 18th overall (332.7 ypg) and 22nd in points allowed with a 22.7 per game average. The Falcons do sport a bunch of All-Pros on defense though (John Abraham, Keith Brooking, DeAngelo Hall, Lawyer Milloy), so a strong performance is not out of the question entirely.

The betting trends for this game are hard to read because they are a little of everything.

Not only have the Saints won the last three games versus Falcons head- to-head (including the 22-16 win earlier this year), but they have covered the spread in two of the three as well. But on the season the Saints are just 4-8 ATS and 1-3 ATS in the last four, so bettors are most likely as disappointed in their performance as diehard fans are this year.

The Falcons are an even 6-6 ATS in 2007, but have failed to cover in all three games during the losing streak. Atlanta has gone over the total in 7 of their last 8 as a home underdog, but the two teams have fallen under the total in the last three head-to-head meetings and 7 of the last 10.

See what I mean, you make heads or tails of that mumbo-jumbo.

The betting line opened at the Saints -5, but already a lot of offshore sportsbooks and Las Vegas Sportsbooks have dropped the number to -4.5. The Total has been consistent though, as most places still have the game pegged at 42.5.

Badgers Pick: These two teams are exactly like their betting trends, wildly inconsistent and all over the place. That makes picking a winner a complete crapshoot. Hopefully you won enough on Sunday to take this one off, but if not, the best value is the over. 42.5 is still a relatively low number, and since the game is indoors in the dome, it favors the offenses which are both overdue for a breakout game.