|-4.5 NO (-115) @ Fanduel|
My 8* Las Vegas Insiders is on the NO Saints at 1:00 ET.
The New Orleans Saints have won SIX in a row and at 7-2, lead the 7-3 Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFC South by just a half-game. However, they own the important tiebreaker, having beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular meetings, including a 38-3 beatdown at Tampa in Week 9. It's 'lucky' Week 11 but the Saints will be without QB Drew Brees for an indefinite period of time due to rib and lung injuries. Visiting New Orleans on Sunday will be the 3-6 Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a bye week and have turned things around after a 0-5 start with a 3-1 record under interim head coach Raheem Morris. This contest marks the first of two matchups between the Falcons and Saints in a three-week span, as the Saints will visit Atlanta for a Week 13 game.
When Atlanta lost 23-16 at home to Carolina to fall to 0-5, head coach Dan Quinn was fired (should have been gone right after that INCREDIBLE Super Bowl collapse). The Falcons named Raheem Morris as interim head coach and the Falcons are 3-1 but with ANY luck, would be 4-0 (lost to Detroit on the game's final play). Matt Ryan will be close to 5,000 passing yards once again, as he's completing 67.2% for 2,746yards with 15 TDs and five INTs. Third-year WR Ridley is having an excellent season (43 catches / 15.3 YPC / 6 TDs) but he was limited in practice Wednesday because of a foot injury. The good news is that superstar WR Julio Jones is rejuvenated (and healthy), catching 28 balls for an average of 106.2 YPG over the last four games The signing of RB Todd Gurley has NOT improved the running game as much as expected. He does have 584 yards but has averaged just 3.7 YPC. Still, his nine TDs through nine games "ain't bad!" The Atlanta defense has been a problem all season and can't be counted on, allowing 27.9 PPG on 410.0 YPG.
Many will remember that the Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at QB in 2019 while Brees recovered from thumb surgery. Former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston is expected to replace Brees, although Taysom Hill could also take some snaps from center in addition to his usual reps at a variety of skill positions. Winston completed 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards after Brees went down last Sunday, while Hill rushed eight times for 45 yards (he did lose a fumble). Whichever QB is in the game, "Job One" is to get the ball to RB Alvin Kamara, who is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. Kamara has 486 yards rushing (4.7 YPC / 7 TDs) and is tied for second in the NFL with 67 receptions (Diggs leads with 73 but has played one more game) plus has four TD receptions. Brees' injury last Sunday was the "bad news" but the "good news" was that WR Michael Thomas (149 catches last season, an NFL record) played for the second straight week. Let's NOT forget the New Orleans defense, which is allowing 308.2 YPG (more than 100 YPG less than Atlanta's), to rank 4th in the league.
Of course, I'd prefer a healthy Brees but I'm NOT sure I'd play the Saints laying more than a TD (the likely line with Brees at QB). Winston has NEVER been a favorite of mine but he's no backup. He started 70 games the last five seasons with the Bucs and I'm convinced Payton will be able to use Hill's talents in a complementary role. Lay the points.