Past Expert Picks
Atlanta @ New Orleans | 11/22 | 6:00 PM UTC
New Orleans -4
The Saints are the NFC's best team, they've won six in a row, and their defense has rounded into form. New Orleans went 5-0 ATS without Drew Brees last year. While the Falcons have been impressive since firing Dan Quinn, they haven't faced a team like the Saints. Lay the points.
Atlanta @ New Orleans | 11/22 | 6:00 PM UTC
This pick is not all about injured QB Drew Brees, though the drop-off to James Winston or Taysom Hill is substantial. Since Raheem Morris replaced Dan Quinn as coach, the Falcons are 3-1 straight up, with the only loss occurring on the final play. The bye week came in handy, especially for oft-ailing WR Julio Jones, who has had two monster receiving games (137 yards apiece) and a 97-yarder with Morris in charge. Atlanta has covered in all but one of its last eight road games.
In the offseason, New Orleans made a bold move by signing Taysom Hill to a big deal. With Drew Brees ailing, the Saints have now put their confidence in Hill. Expect the defense to boost New Orleans against a Falcons team that ranks 27th in red-zone efficiency and has an uncanny ability of making fourth-quarter mistakes. Grab the Saints.
I liked the Falcons earlier in the week and would've jumped all over the number had I known Taysom Hill would be starting this game. The lookahead line for this matchup was Saints -7, and you need to adjust more than four points for the drop from Drew Brees to Hill based on what we've seen so far from the versatile offensive weapon. The Falcons are playing well under Raheem Morris, but the one area where they've had consistent trouble is running the ball. That wasn't going to happen anyway against an elite Saints rush defense. With the Atlanta offense healthy, the Falcons will do enough to cover this number and could win outright unless Hill has a hidden gear we don't know about.
Although the Saints will be starting Jameis Winston at QB for the foreseeable future, don't expect a drop-off offensively. In fact, expect the opposite. Winston gives them more upside in the downfield passing game, which has been an issue for the Saints this season. This addition could put more pressure on the Falcons' offense to maximize every possession, which will be tough against an improved New Orleans defense.
Great teams find ways to win games, and great coaches game plan appropriately to win games. Though I may personally have problems with the way Sean Payton uses Taysom Hill when he has Drew Brees available, Payton is clearly excited to roll with Hill over Jameis Winston in this game. If the Saints were going up against a stronger defense, perhaps I would fade them as a home favorite here. Atlanta can score, but the New Orleans defense (fifth in DVOA) is going to step up because that’s what top-tier teams do in situations like this. Payton, Hill, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are enough for me to put a sprinkle on the Saints here. I like it better at -3 if you can get it, but I haven’t seen that line and time is running out.
It doesn't matter who plays quarterback for New Orleans in this one. I think Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will split the duties. With Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray and the other weapons, I don't think Atlanta can handle the Saints. The Falcons are 3-1 since they fired Dan Quinn, but none of those wins came against any team as good as New Orleans. Lay the points.
Taysom Hill will be asked to manage the game, and this should be enough because the Saints have a good defense and a good running game. The Falcons are 0-14 ATS as underdogs when they are off two consecutive games with a positive Delta Points Scored and were favored in the most recent. The Saints are 11-0 ATS when they are off a home game, they benefitted from a positive takeaway margin in each of their last two games and they are facing a team that has averaged at least 200 passing yards a game. We are laying the points.
This play is not a knock on Taysom Hill but an acknowledgement that this line was very likely to be mispriced to begin with and then correctly dropped when the Saints lost Drew Brees. Atlanta is better on the road than people realize while New Orleans is not nearly as good at home as perceived. Atlanta has completely outplayed expectations on the road over the last year. The Falcons are 7-0 ATS (16.27 points per game) since Nov. 10, 2019, on the road in non-Monday night games. Prediction: Atlanta by four.