The New Orleans Saints are chasing down the No. 1 seed in the NFC thanks to that late loss against the New England Patriots in Week 6. The team they need to catch, Seattle, are resting comfortably in the Northwest with a Week 12 bye. Here’s how we see Sean Payton’s gameplan coming together as the Saints prepare for divisional battle with the Atlanta Falcons
[dropcap2]W[/dropcap2]hen the Week 12 NFL odds first came up the Saints were -7 but public betting money is driving the ATS line closer to double-digits. Team totals are as high as 31.5 for the Saints but we’ve noticed some sharp money on New Orleans staying lower than expected and it fits nicely with our top primetime pick.
WEEK 12 PICKS – THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
The TT on the Falcons is 21.5 or 22 points and at home this year the Birds scored 20-plus points in four-straight games before Seattle in Week 10 (28.2 PPG avg). The Hawks, whose defense ranks fourth in scoring on the road (17.0 PPGA) shut down the run (64 yards) while holding Atlanta to its lowest passing totals (162 yds) since hosting the Saints in Week 13, 2012 (159 yds).
Despite their low passing stats that game was a 23-13 win for the Falcons and they had already scored 17 points before New Orleans’ first TD in the second quarter. The key to the game was turnovers (TOs) as Atlanta picked off Brees five times and won the turnover battle by four. Note that in 2012, Atlanta ranked 5th in takeaways (1.9) with a 2.1 avg at home. This season Atlanta is tied for 29th in takeaways per game (0.8) and tied for 30th at home (0.4). They have not won a single turnover battle this season (0-8-2).
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Atlanta is tied with Houston and the New York Giants for second worst turnover margin per game (-1.1) and the Saints are 13th (+0.3)
The Birds can’t get pressure and they are terrible against the run. Their O-line also ranks 26th in run blocking but they’ve done okay keeping QB Ryan safe and this game will come down to how successful Atlanta can be at getting the ball to its TEs and RBs in the flat. Tony Gonzalez (toe) and Jacquizz Rodgers (ankle) are both active tonight and they’ll both need to play a key role if the Falcons are going to try and pull off an upset.
Atlanta is 7-1 ATS on TNF and they’ve held opponents to 19.1 PPG. Not one team has scored more than 31 points against them during this set and the past three in a row (all home games) scored 21 points or less.
New Orleans is 0-5-2 ATS on TNF and they’ve only score more than 30 points once; the Week 1 post-Super Bowl game against Green Bay in 2011.
ATS STAT PACK
Since 1989 there have been 84 divisional road faves of -7 to -10 points and if the team they are visiting can score 20 points or more (20 games), the road fave’s record is only 3-27 ATS (10-percent) with 21 overs, 8 unders and a push.
There was a loss earlier this year by the Vikings at home to Green Bay in Week 8 (44-31) but before that, the home dogs in this spot who could score at least 20 points were on a 16-0 ATS run dating back to 2001 (13-3 O/U).
NFL PRIMETIME PICKS
The Falcons have limped through this season with a re-shuffled O-line and battered receiver corps. Rob Ryan’s D can give a ton of different looks and with his bottomless bag of tricks the Falcons will need every man to bring his A-game. With QB Matt Ryan at pivot there is veteran leadership across this offense but it will take a big game from both sides of the ball tonight and in front of a national TV audience, we expect to see it.
Pick: Take the Saints Team Total UNDER 31.5 points