The New Orleans Saints will be trying to take complete control of the NFC South when they visit the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday night. New Orleans is 9-3 overall and has won nine of its last 10 contests. The Falcons are 7-5 and recently saw a three-game winning streak come to an end with a setback against Minnesota.
The Saints have answered their early-season trade of Adrian Peterson by showcasing the most dynamic rushing duo in the NFL. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were up their usual tricks in last weekend’s victory over fellow NFC South rival Carolina, as Ingram compiled 85 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards, and a touchdown, while Kamara finished with 60 rushing yards, 66 receiving yards, and two touchdowns on the ground. It marked the fourth time this season that both have gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage in the same game. They have combined for 16 rushing touchdowns (Ingram nine, Kamara seven) and Kamara has four scores via receptions to go along with his 614 receiving yards.
“I’m trying to get my best ‘Alvin Kamara’ on,” Ingram commented. “I’m trying to go in ‘Matrix mode.’ [People are] sleeping on my speed, so I gotta put the burners on ’em every now and then…. Over the past few years, [the Panthers] have been getting the best of us–especially in big games. So we put emphasis on [being] bullies; we [were] gonna execute, and that was a great team win.”
Trufant back from concussion
The Falcons will have their No. 1 cornerback back to face New Orleans’ high-powered offense. Desmond Trufant was part of the NFL’s concussion protocol last week and therefor missed a 14-9 home loss to the Vikings. That marked the first game Trufant has missed this season. Although Atlanta’s inability to score touchdowns on offense was the main culprit in the setback, the Trufant-less defense did not do much in the way of stopping Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum. To go along with 227 yards and two touchdowns, Keenum completed an outstanding 25 of 30 pass attempts. The Falcons like to rotate sides with their cornerbacks, so Trufant will likely spend half of Thursday’s showdown covering Michael Thomas and half covering Ted Ginn.
Despite being banged up at times, Atlanta is eighth in the NFL in total defense and sixth in passing defense. The team has seemingly taken a step back from last year’s NFC Championship run due to a slowing down of the offense as opposed to any kind of decline on the defensive side of the ball.
The New Orleans Saints are:
- 8-2 ATS in their last 10 overall
- 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road games
- 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games against the NFC
The Atlanta Falcons are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a loss
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss
- 21-9-1 Over in their last 31 overall
Atlanta’s defense could not get off the field on third downs in last week’s loss to Minnesota, and not many quarterbacks are better at converting third downs than Drew Brees. The veteran QB’s efficiency is even better now that he has two extremely capable running backs supporting him. The Saints are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 overall, 13-3 ATS in their last 16 on the road, 9-3 ATS in their last 12 against the NFC, 12-2 ATS in their last 14 agains the NFC South, 8-2 ATS in their last 10 following a win, 41-18-1 ATS in their last 60 against winning opponents, and 4-1 ATS in their last five after gaining more than 350 yards of total offense in their previous outing. Atlanta is 1-4 ATS in its last five games following a loss and 1-4 ATS in its last five following an ATS loss. Expect those trends to continue.
Pick: New Orleans Saints -1.5
These two rivals generally play shootouts against each other. Atlanta won both such contests last season; 45-32 on the rod and 38-32 at home. The over is 6-2 in the Saints’ last eight against winning opponents, 4-1 in their last five against the NFC South, 5-2 in their last seven December contests, and 6-0 in their last six after gaining more than 350 yards of total offense in their previous outing. It is also 21-9-1 in the Falcons’ last 31 overall, 16-5-1 in their last 22 against the NFC, 6-1-1 in their last eight against the NFC South, and 5-2-1 in their last eight on Thursdays. Look for this one to go over the total.