The big storyline heading into the Falcons at Saints pick as part of the NFL’s week 11 slate is the situation at QB for New Orleans. Drew Brees is set to miss multiple weeks with broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but instead of going with Jameis Winston, Sean Payton has named inexperienced, but an electric dual threat, Taysom Hill as his starter.
Atlanta is getting +3.5 on Sunday, a tempting number against a Saints team playing without their offensive leader. The Falcons have been playing much better with wins in three of their last four, and even three of their six losses came on blown 4th quarter leads. The two teams both also won on the road in this series last season.
Interesting Test for Falcons Defense
Nobody really knows what to expect from Hill as the starting QB of New Orleans, and the matchup could either be better or worse for the Falcons defense than if Brees was under center. The Falcons come into this game as the 31st ranked pass defense in the NFL, but Hill has thrown just 18 passes in his career. Atlanta ranks 6th in the league holding opponents to under 100 yards per game on the ground.
The betting total for the Falcons at Saints pick is 49, and Atlanta faces their own challenges against an improving New Orleans defense. The Saints have allowed just 16 points total the last two weeks against Tampa Bay and San Francisco. The 49ers had just 49 yards on 25 carries but did throw for 232 yards. The Bucs were dominated on national TV, rushing 5 times for 8 yards while gaining only 186 through the air.
Matt Ryan has seen this defense a ton, but he had just 4 TD to 3 INT last season against New Orleans while getting sacked 10 times. Even so, Ryan has led Atlanta to the #1 passing attack in the league and has 15 TD to just 5 INT on the year. Atlanta has done a better job of protecting their QB too, with just 19 sacks in 352 attempts.
What Does Payton Have Up His Sleeve?
It has to have been hard for Atlanta to game plan for the Saints offense this week, not knowing what to expect from Taysom Hill as the starting QB. Does New Orleans still run their pass-heavy offense, or do they adopt the run-pass option to fit Hill’s strengths?
Payton could also pull the ultimate wild card and turn over the QB reins to the more traditional pocket passer in Jameis Winston, who was 6/10 last week in relief of Brees. Basically, Payton has a lot of options, especially Alvin Kamara in the passing game. Kamara carried the ball just 8 times last week, but two of those went for scores. He also added 7 catches for 83 yards and another TD.
The Saints also have Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back for the third straight contest. They both have struggled to get back in the flow the last two outings, but are huge assets if Atlanta can start to put some points on the board.
Free Falcons at Saints Pick
A slight 58% of the betting public like Atlanta and the points, not a bad wager especially with the hook looming large at +3.5 in a battle of conference foes. The side is basically a toss-up because we don’t know what to expect from New Orleans, but the total seems doable.
Only once in the last six head to head meetings has the game gone ‘over’ the total of Sunday’s 49, and that was usually with Brees battling Ryan. New Orleans will run the ball a lot more if Hill stays at QB, and the Falcons offense is going to have their fare share of struggles vs. the Saints defense.
Saints 24 – Falcons 21
Free Pick: Under 49