This week’s Thursday Night Football game is also the third and final game of a Thanksgiving holiday triple header in the NFL featuring the New Orleans Saints (9-2) at the Atlanta Falcons (3-8).
The Saints need one more win to lock up a postseason berth. They hold a four-game lead over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. If the season were to end today, the Saints would earn the #2 seed in the NFC and secure a bye in the opening round.
New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-8)
Kickoff: 5:20pm PT
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Point Spread: NO -7
Money Line: NO -310 / ATL +255
The look-ahead line opened with the Saints as a 5-point favorite on Thanksgiving. The Falcons are a home dog by a touchdown even though they defeated the Saints in Week 10.
The dinged-up Falcons muster up only 22 points per game, which is problematic considering the Saints defense allows only 20.9 points per game.
The Saints and Falcons met last year on the Thursday Night Football telecast on Thanksgiving in New Orleans. The Saints defeated the Falcons 31-17 thanks to four touchdowns from Drew Brees.
Gimpy Dirty Birds
The Falcons are a much better team than earlier in the season, but they’re still plenty of flaws due to numerous injuries. Three of their losses were by a margin of a score or less, including a one-point heartbreaker against the Arizona Cardinals.
During their two-game winning streak this month, the Falcons defense put on a stellar performance allowing only 12 combined points. The defense held the Carolina Panthers to a field goal and kept superstars RB Christian McCaffrey out of the end zone.
In their win against the Saints, the Falcons pass D stepped up and sacked Drew Brees six times. The Falcons also prevented Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara from scoring any touchdowns, which is a remarkable feat on the road.
The Falcons saw their two-game winning streak end with an ugly 35-22 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs last week. Good Jameis Winston showed up and picked apart the Falcons secondary.
Running back Devonta Freeman has been nursing multiple injuries all season. Freeman participated in practice this week, so he’s expected to return after missing the previous two contests with a foot injury. The running game suffered in his absence. The Falcons have the second-worst rushing attack in the NFL with only 72.9 yards per game. Freeman has zero rushing touchdowns and has not posted a 100-yard game once this season. He’s scored three passing touchdowns, but he’s only averaging 3.5 yards per carry during a disappointing season.
If the Falcons want to sweep the Saints this season, it all begins with the running game. Last week, rookie Qadree Ollison and third-stringer Brian Hill split time in the backfield. The Falcons are thrilled to have Freeman back in the mix.
Can’t Guard Mike Since Brees Return
When the Saints do not score, they lose this season. In both their losses, the Saints scored nine points in each of those games.
The Falcons ambushed the Saints in the Superdome in their first meeting. This time, however, the Saints will not be caught off guard by the Falcons during Thursday Night Football on Thanksgiving. The Falcons held the Saints to only three field goals in Week 10. Drew Brees and the offense will not squander Red Zone opportunities on Turkey Day.
The Falcons stuffed Alvin Kamara in the first meeting. They held Kamara to just 24 rushing yards on only four carries. The Saints ran for only 52 yards, which is less than half of their usual output (108.5 rushing yards per game).
Since rejoining the Saints after successful thumb surgery, Brees threw nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. Brees threw 39 or more passes in three of his last four games. He also completed 30-plus passes in three of his last four games.
Michael Thomas only scored six touchdowns this season, but he caught three touchdowns since Brees returned as a starter in Week 8. He caught ten or more receptions three times in the last four games since Brees’ return. Last week, Thomas tormented Carolina and caught ten out of 11 passes targeted to him for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas posted 100-plus receiving yards in five consecutive games including a monstrous 152 yards against the Falcons in Week 10. Overall this season, Thomas headed north of 100 receiving yards seven times in 11 games. He racked up 1,242 yards on 104 receptions.