Saints vs Falcons Week 18 Picks and Predictions: Atlanta Sends NOLA Marching Home

The Saints need to beat the Falcons in Week 18 to keep their playoff hopes alive, with Atlanta getting the chance to spoil its hated rival's postseason chances. Our picks and predictions break down why Sunday won't be straightforward for New Orleans.

Shawn Wronka - Contributor at
Jan 9, 2022 • 15:12 ET • 5 min read
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons NFL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints go on the road in Week 18 to face the rival Atlanta Falcons, with a win only part of the equation New Orleans needs to make the postseason.

If the Saints can march out of Atlanta with a W and the Rams can beat the 49ers, then New Orleans will find itself in the tournament. Before scoreboard watching, can NOLA take care of business in Atlanta?

Find out with our NFL picks and predictions for Saints vs. Falcons on January 9. 

Saints vs Falcons odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

The Saints opened as 6-point favorites and have steadily moved down over the week to its current -3.5 line. The total opened at 42 and has since moved down to 40, where it currently stands.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

Saints vs Falcons predictions

Predictions made on 1/8/2022 at 3:300 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Saints vs Falcons game info

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Date: Sunday, January 9, 2022
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Saints at Falcons betting preview


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Key injuries

Saints: Terron Armstead LT (Out), Mark Ingram II RB (Out), Bradley Roby CB (Out), P.J. Williams DB (Out), Kenny Stills WR (Out), Ian Book QB (Out).
Falcons: Jalen Mayfield LG (Out), John Cominskey DL (Out), Jonathan Bullard DE (Out), Frank Darby WR (Out), James Vaughters LB (Out), Tyeler Davison DL (Out), Josh Rosen QB (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Falcons are 3-1 against the spread this year as underdogs of less than a touchdown while the Saints are 2-4 as favorites of a field goal or more. Find more NFL betting trends for Saints vs. Falcons.

Saints vs Falcons picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

The New Orleans Saints have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth on Sunday afternoon with a win and a 49ers loss. Given that the Niners are moderate four-point underdogs and will have the choice of playing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo or the inexperienced Trey Lance, the Saints' chances are more than realistic.

To make it more reasonable, this is a Falcons team that is 0-7 with a -159-point differential this year against teams above .500 and 7-2 with just a +23 differential against teams .500 or worse, despite playing the likes of the Panthers, Lions, Jets, and Jaguars. The Saints were one of those .500 or below teams that Atlanta beat and Atlanta did it as touchdown underdogs on the road in Week 9.

In fact, it was that loss in Week 9 that things began to really fall off the rails for New Orleans. New Orleans would go on to lose five straight at that point, and along the way, its offense disappeared. Since Week 12, the Saints have averaged just 13.8 points per game (and that includes a 30-point performance against the Jets in Week 14).

The struggles have come on the back of injuries to Alvin Kamara (Weeks 10-14), left tackle Terron Armstead (has played twice since Week 9), and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (last appeared in Week 10). Kamara has since returned and Ramczyk is questionable this week, and his availability is worth monitoring as is defensive end Marcus Davenport's (also questionable).

Atlanta is dealing with its own set of injuries, with star rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and starting left guard Jalen Mayfield both questionable as well. The Falcons will likely try to get Pitts on the field to break the rookie receiving record for tight ends, which he needs 59 yards to break.

Matchup-wise, Atlanta fares well. Its offensive line has quietly been a good group this year and is more than capable of making New Orleans' front seven, which ranks seventh in sack rate, fourth in pass defense DVOA, and first in rush defense DVOA, manageable. This was obviously the case in their previous matchup in which Atlanta only allowed two sacks and two tackles for loss, of which New Orleans has averaged 2.7 and 5.7 of in their other fifteen games. The result was Atlanta becoming just one of four teams to score 27+ (in regulation) and win against the Saints this year joining the Cowboys, Bills, and Eagles.

Yes, this may be a "must-win" game for the Saints but teams out of playoff contention playing against teams in "must-win" scenarios in the final two weeks of the regular season are 94-56-4 (63%) against the spread since 1990.

Books and market-makers are more than privy to the situation and spreads in such situations have been far over-adjusted as a result. This is an opportunity to take advantage.

Prediction: Falcons +3.5 (-110)

Atlanta's defense is largely unimpressive and a large reason why the Falcons are out of playoff contention. In their nine losses, the Falcons have managed to give up an average of 31.2 points. The only teams they've managed to hold to 20 points or less are the Giants, Jets, Panthers, Jaguars, and Lions. Second-year defensive back AJ Terrell is the lone bright spot for the team and is entirely deserving of first-team All-Pro consideration, but he is merely one man.

The Saints, on the other hand, have had better luck on defense as of late. They've allowed just 9.8 points per game in their last four, including their signature performance of shutting out Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. They are vulnerable, however, as they allowed 29.2 points per game in the six games prior to that (one of which was their Week 9 game against Atlanta). And as mentioned previously, Atlanta is equipped to handle the Saints’ front seven.

Prediction: Over 40 (-102)

All in all, a lot is being made this week of teams in must-win situations. But as it's been shown, it's been more than accounted for in the market and in the number. This could also be Matt Ryan's final game for the franchise, as the franchise may be looking to pivot following reports this week that both the Falcons and Calvin Ridley could be looking for a "fresh start". With cornerstone pieces on each side of the ball (Pitts and Terrell), now could be the time. Granted Matt Ryan's contract is not exactly the easiest to move, but as we saw with Jared Goff and many others in the past, there is always a price.

Nevertheless, even without the Matt Ryan sentiment, the Falcons are more than equipped and capable of spoiling the party for the Saints.

Pick: Falcons +3.5 (-110)

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