Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

This, the last of three Thanksgiving Day matchups, is an NFC South battle between the hungry third place Atlanta Falcons and the dominating first place New Orleans Saints taking place on Thursday, November 22 at 8:20 pm in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, NO, broadcasted by NBC.

The 4-6 Atlanta Falcons:

Except for a three-game win streak from Week 6 thru Week 9, the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons have been cold all season, their current run a two-game losing streak.

Coming off a 19-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11 by a field goal with just three seconds remaining, four of Atlanta’s six losses were by one score or less.

The Falcons are just 1-3 on the road this year and 2-1 in their division, but it will take a miracle for them to beat the dominating Saints in their own loud backyard this late in the season.

The 9-1 New Orleans Saints:

Anyone who watched the 9-1 New Orleans Saints take apart the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles 48-7 in Week 11 will have no problem imagining the Saints making a run all the way to Super Bowl LIII in February.

Led by future Hall-of-Fame All-Pro and 11x Pro-Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have won their last nine games in a row.

The Saints are 4-1 at home and 1-1 in their division, but against a Falcons team that seems to be falling apart, New Orleans is favored to win this one by almost two touchdowns.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 99 times (including 1 postseason game), with New Orleans winning 47 games and Atlanta winning 52 games. The Saints have won the most recent two meetings, including this season in Week 3 in overtime. The Falcons won three-in-a-row prior to that.

If the Falcons win this matchup, they’ll move to 5-6 and put an end to their two-game losing streak but remain at least two games behind the second place Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.

But if the Saints come out on top, they’ll be 10-1 and continue their dominance of the NFC South, easily on their way to the playoffs and most likely the Super Bowl.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 12 Falcons-Saints matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Falcons and the Saints and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Falcons offense good, can’t win

Atlanta’s veteran quarterback Matt Ryan is having an impressive year – ranked third overall in total passing yards (3,306), he’s thrown for 22 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions.

One big problem is the Falcons offensive line not keeping Ryan safe – they’ve allowed opponents to sack their quarterback 27 times, which is the 9th most sacks in the league.

With All-Pro receiver Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and standout rookie Calvin Ridley, who was a first-round draft pick, Atlanta’s passing attack is ranked third in the league averaging 314.6 yards through the air per game.

Falcons run attack currently weak

The Falcons rushing game is at the bottom of the NFL barrel, ranked 29th out of 32 teams for only averaging 88.8 yards on the ground per game.

Their starting running back, Devonta Freeman, was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury in Week 7.

Tevin Coleman is making most of the runs now, and so far this season Coleman has 500 yards rushing with 2 touchdowns while catching for 251 yards and four touchdowns.

Atlanta offensive Injuries

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (thigh) had limited practice on Monday and is listed as questionable for Week 12.

The 2018 Saints offense top notch

With a playmaker like quarterback Drew Brees as their leader, the New Orleans Saints’ offense is ranked fourth in total yards per game with 427.1, they score 37.8 points per game and both their passing and running attacks are ranked 6th overall.

Brees has thrown for 2,964 yards, 25 touchdowns and just a single interception, ranked 6th overall among NFL quarterbacks.

His targets are solid – Michael Thomas, rookie Tre’Quan Smith and Austin Carr and crew have combined for 295.7 passing yards per game.

Two-headed New Orleans beast on the ground

The Saints have second-year running back Alvin Kamara and veteran Mark Ingram sharing snaps and have combined for an average of 131.4 rushing yards per game.

With 11 rushing touchdowns, Kamara is second only to Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley, who has 13, while Ingram has 4 touchdowns of his own.

Kamara has also caught 56-for72 passes for 510 yards and four more touchdowns.

New Orleans offensive Injuries

Tackle Terron Armstead (pectoral) is out for Week 12.

Guard Jermon Bushrod (hand), guard Andrus Peat (knee), rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (foot) and center Max Unger (quadriceps) are all listed as questionable for Week 12.

Falcons Defense ranks 29th in the league

The Falcons defense allows opponents to score 27.6 points and gain a total of 405.2 yards per game with a passing defense ranked 29th and a run defense ranked 23rd.

Atlanta has 8 team interceptions, but 5 of those come from just one player (strong safety Damontae Kazee) and the team has 19 sacks (only four teams have less).

Falcons Defensive Players to watch:

Defensive end Takkarist McKinley has 6.0 sacks (T-21st most) and has 15 combined tackles (6 for loss) and 9 quarterback hits.

Defensive tackle Jack Crawford has 4.0 sacks, 18 combined tackles (5 for loss), 6 quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Safety Damontae Kazee has the most interceptions in the NFL with 5, as well as 51 combined tackles, 7 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Falcons defensive injuries adding up

Linebacker Deion Jones (foot), cornerbacks Robert Alford (foot) and Desmond Trufant (thigh), Safety Damontae Kazee (shoulder, elbow) and outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (thigh) are all listed as questionable for Week 12.

Saints Defense is 16th overall

Ranked right in the middle, the Saints defense allows opponents to score 23.9 points and 358.2 total yards of offense per game, ranked 27th against the pass and an impressive 2nd against the run.

The Saints have intercepted 9 passes this season (T-17th) and have sacked 24 quarterbacks (T-21st) while allowing opponents to convert on 39.0 percent of their third downs (15th).

Saints Defensive Players to watch:

Outside linebacker Demario Davis has 70 combined tackles (T-27th most in the league) and has 2.0 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, a pass defended and a forced fumble.

All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins each have 6.0 sacks, tied for 21st most in the NFL.

Defensive back Chris Banjo has 2 interceptions (T-23rd most) and 3 passes defended.

Defensive end Marcus Davenport (toe) and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (hand) are both listed as questionable for Week 12.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Atlanta’s punter, Matt Bosher, who has only ever been a Falcon in his eight NFL seasons, has punted 33 times for a net average of 37.1 yards per punt, ranked 33rd in the NFL.

New Orleans’ punter, Thomas Morstead, was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2009 and so far, he’s punted 21 times for a net average of 43.4 yards per punt, ranked 3rd in the league.

Placekickers:

Atlanta’s veteran placekicker, 43-year-old Matt Bryant, was out for three games due to a hamstring injury but started last week against the Dallas Cowboys and appeared healthy.

He went 4-for-4 in that Week 11 game, kicking field goals from 21, 41, 45 and 53 yards and made his only extra point attempt in that game (1/1).

On the season, Bryant is 13-for-13 on his field goal attempts, his longest a 57-yarder, and 17/18 on his extra point attempts.

New Orleans’ placekicker, Wil Lutz, in his third season, is 21-for-22, his longest a 54-yarder..

He has missed one extra point attempt (39/40).

Punt Returners:

Atlanta’s punt returner, wide receiver Justin Hardy, is ranked 58th in the league.

He’s returned 14 punts for 68 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per return, his longest for 14 yards.

New Orleans’ punt returner, running back Alvin Kamara, is ranked 37th in the league in return average.

He’s returned 8 punts for 58 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per return, his longest for 15 yards.

Falcons–Saints prediction and odds

The oddsmakers have the Saints favored over the Falcons by 13 with an over/under of 59.0.

CBSSports.com has this final score prediction:

John Breech takes the over and predicts it Saints 38, Falcons 30

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