New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5, 51.5)
The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons will get to know each other quite well over the next 2 1/2 weeks as the NFC South rivals play the first of their two meetings in that stretch on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. First-place New Orleans posted its ninth win in 10 outings with a 31-21 victory over Carolina last week, although the Falcons control their own destiny with four games remaining versus division foes.
"I like where we're at, but I feel like we can continue to get better," said New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for an NFL third-best 3,298 yards. "There's still things I feel like we're leaving out there, opportunities that we're leaving out there, that if we want to accomplish and go where we want to go, then we've got to continue to improve upon and get better at those things." Running backs Mark Ingram (NFL-best nine rushing TDs) and rookie Alvin Kamara haven't been wasting many opportunities, as the duo has combined for at least 200 scrimmage yards in five consecutive games - totaling 1,243 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns. Impressive statistics to be certain, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons had the Saints' number last year as the reigning NFL MVP completed 47 of 66 passes for 571 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 127.8 in the season sweep last season. "Everything we want is still in front of us," Ryan said of the Falcons, who reside on the outside looking in of the NFC playoff picture.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC, NFL Network.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Saints (-4) - Falcons (-1.5) + home field (-3) = Falcons -0.5.
LINE HISTORY: The Falcons opened as two-point home favorites but early heavy action on the Saints caused that number to jump the fence all of the way to New Orleans -1.5. On game day, however, sharp action on the Falcons drove the line back over the fence to Atlanta -2.5. The total hit betting boards at 55 and has dropped significantly down to 51.5. Check out the complete line history here.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: "Huge NFC South division battle Thursday night in Atlanta finds the floundering Falcons taking on the sizzling Saints in what should be a playoff atmosphere. With New Orleans 0-5 UNDER on Thursdays and 1-4 UNDER after facing the Panthers, and Atlanta 0-3 UNDER after facing the Vikings and 1-4 UNDER after scoring less than 10 points in its last game, look for a snoozer tonight." - Covers Experts' Marc Lawrence.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We saw a few of our sharper players grab the points with the Falcons and moved our number back to pick ’em. Since then, we’re seeing more and more public support on the Falcons. I believe most bettors overreacted to what they saw last Sunday. But thinking about it more, I believe the betting public sees this game as far more important for the Falcons than it is for the Saints. The Falcons have to win this game for any chance of winning their division, and it’s pretty imperative to their wild-card chances, too.” - Peter Childs, risk management supervisor for offshore site Sportsbook.ag.
WEATHER REPORT: Dome.
Saints - LB A.J. Klein (Probable, Groin), RB Mark Ingram (Probable, Toe), T Terron Armstead (Probable, Thigh), CB Marshon Lattimore (Questionable, Ankle), S Marcus Williams (Questionable, Groin), DE Trey Hendrickson (Questionable, Knee), CB P.J. Williams (Questionable, Shoulder), CB Ken Crawley (Questionable, Abdominal), T Andrus Peat (Out, Groin), NT David Parry (I-R, Ankle), DL Mitchell Loewen (I-R, Ankle), TE Coby Fleener (I-R, Concussion), T Zach Strief (I-R, Knee), DE Alex Okafor (I-R, Achilles), RB Daniel Lasco (I-R, Spine), CB Delvin Breaux (I-R, Leg), LB Alex Anzalone (I-R, Shoulder), LB Nathan Stupar (I-R, Knee), FB John Kuhn (I-R, Bicep), LS Jon Dorenbos (I-R, Heart), TE Clay Harbor (I-R, Undisclosed), DT Devaroe Lawrence (I-R, Knee), WR Dan Arnold (I-R, Undisclosed), DT Nick Fairley (I-R, Heart).
Falcons - CB Brian Poole (Probable, Back), CB Desmond Trufant (Probable, Concussion), LB Sean Weatherspoon (Questionable, Illness), TE Eric Saubert (Out, Back), G Andy Levitre (Out, Tricep), S Quincy Mauger (Out, Knee), LB Jordan Tripp (Out, Concussion), DE Jack Crawford (I-R, Bicep).
ABOUT THE SAINTS (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS, 7-5 O/U): While New Orleans' high-octane offense has produced consistent headlines over the years, the team's defense has made vast improvements in 2017 - permitting only 17.9 points in the last 10 games. NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November Cam Jordan has registered 10.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss this season and has eight sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in his last nine encounters with Atlanta. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has made progress from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the past two games, could be in line to guard wideout Julio Jones on Thursday.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS, 5-7 O/U): Atlanta boasts a potent pair of running backs in its own right in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, with the former faring well with 12 carries for 74 yards in his return from a concussion in a 14-9 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. Coleman has recorded five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in his past five games overall and four (three rushing, one receiving) in his past two against New Orleans. Jones (NFC-best 1,063 receiving yards) was limited to two catches for 24 yards versus the Vikings, but has 361 receiving yards and a touchdown in his past three homes games versus the Saints.
* Saints are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road games.
* Falcons are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 Thursday games.
* Over is 6-0 in Saints' last 6 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Falcons' last 8 vs. NFC South.
* Underdog is 13-3 ATS in their last 16 meetings.
View full list of betting trends for this matchup here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Covers public is siding with the Saints on the road at a rate of 59 percent and the Over is getting 67 percent of the totals action on Covers. View full consensus data here.