Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints Matchup Preview (11/22/20): Betting Odds, Depth Charts, Live Stream (Watch Online)
We have an exciting divisional matchup on the slate this week between two teams who know each other well and certainly aren’t the friendliest of opponents. The Saints have won four of the last five matchups between these two teams, but New Orleans is set to be without Drew Brees after he suffered a few fractured ribs and a collapsed lung last Sunday. Taysom Hill is expected to be the starting “quarterback” for the Saints, although we should expect to see some Jameis Winston as well. At 7-2, the Saints would be in line to earn the #1 seed in the NFC and the one first-round bye, but the Buccaneers sit at 7-3 and are hot on their tail in the NFC South. The Falcons, meanwhile, have won three of their last four games and look ready to make a push for a Wild Card spot in the NFC as they’re just a few games out at the moment. With plenty of playoff implications to go around and two teams eager for a statement win over the other, let’s dive into some of the factors that will determine the outcome of this game. For odds movement and full matchup history, visit the Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Matchup Page.
Date: Sunday, November 22nd, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium – New Orleans, Louisiana
TV Coverage: FOX
Falcons vs. Saints Live Stream
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Atlanta Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley (foot) Q, WR Russell Gage (shoulder/knee) Q, TE Jaeden Graham (knee) Q, DB Kendall Sheffield (concussion) Q, DE Dante Fowler (COVID-19) IR, DB Jordan Miller (oblique) IR, S Damonte Kazee (Achilles) IR
New Orleans Saints: RB Alvin Kamara (foot) Q, DE Cameron Jordan (back) Q, OT Ryan Ramczyk (knee) Q, WR Tre’Quan Smith (concussion) Q, CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) Q, DE Anthony Lanier (undisclosed) Q, TE Josh Hill (concussion) O, RB DeAndre Washington (back) O, P Ben Gillikin (back) IR eligible to return, WR Bennie Fowler (shoulder) IR eligible to return, QB Drew Brees (ribs) IR, DB Justin Hardee (groin) IR, DT Sheldon Rankins (MCL) IR
Atlanta Falcons Analysis
It’s been an up-and-down season for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and he’s completed 67.2% of his passes for 2,746 yards and 15 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. That’s a 16-game pace of 4,880 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, far from career-best numbers for the 35-year-old veteran. However, there’s been a marked improvement in his production when Julio Jones has been in the lineup, especially when Calvin Ridley has been active as well. The Saints have been a middle-of-the-pack passing defense this season and Marshon Lattimore is questionable for this game, so I’m expecting a strong effort from Ryan this week.
It hasn’t been pretty for Falcons’ running back Todd Gurley, but he ranks 10th in the NFL with 584 rushing yards and third in the NFL with 9 rushing touchdowns. His 3.7 YPC is really underwhelming, though, and advanced metrics don’t paint a pretty picture about his efficiency this season. However, his 159 rushing attempts is the 4th-most in football, and it’s clear the Falcons have made a significant effort to get the rushing offense going to help out Matt Ryan and the passing offense. Brian Hill has been more efficient this season as he’s rushed for 4.3 yards per carry, and it will be interesting to see if he starts to take on more of the workload as the season goes on.
While the Falcons’ rushing production has largely remained similar to last season’s underwhelming results, the offensive line has been significantly improved. Second-year players Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, both first-round picks last year, have locked down the right side of the offensive line. Jake Matthews has been a stalwart left tackle, and center Alex Mack has put forth another strong season. The Falcons have allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked 2.1 times per game, down from 3.1 times per game last season.
Julio Jones has only been able to play in 6 of the Falcons’ 9 games, but he has been dominant when he’s been out there. He ranks third in the NFL in yards per game at 91.1 and has 43 catches for 638 yards and 3 touchdowns so far. Perhaps more than his own personal production, his presence on the field has been the key to Atlanta’s offensive successes. Calvin Ridley has had an impressive third pro season with 43 catches for 657 yards and 6 touchdowns so far – that’s a 16-game pace of 86 catches for 1,314 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, Ridley continues to deal with a foot sprain, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play or how limited he’ll be this week. With injuries to Ridley and Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst could be a critical piece in the offense this week. He had 7 catches for 62 yards last week, and despite an underwhelming season, he could be in for a great game against a defense that has struggled to cover tight ends.
The Falcons’ pass defense has been it’s Achilles heel this season as they’ve allowed 310.3 passing yards per game, the second-most in the NFL. They’re one of two teams to allow more than 300 passing yards per game. A.J. Terrell has shown flashes at cornerback in his rookie season, but Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver have both been pretty terrible this season. The Falcons’ pass rush has also struggled as they have just 14 sacks through 9 games, the 9th-fewest in the NFL. Atlanta’s combination of poor coverage and the limited pass rush has spelled trouble all year. To be fair to the Falcons, their run defense has actually been pretty stout as they’ve allowed just 99.7 rushing yards per game, the sixth-fewest, and 8 rushing touchdowns, tied for the 11th-fewest. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has been superb with 2.5 sacks, 32 total tackles, and 9 tackles for a loss (tied for the 15th-most). Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun have been a pretty strong duo at linebacker, as well. The Falcons’ rushing defense will be the key for them if they are to come away with a win in this matchup.
Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart
New Orleans Saints Analysis
The big news for the Saints heading into this matchup is the announcement that Taysom Hill will be starting at quarterback on Sunday. Drew Brees leads the NFL with a 73.5% completion percentage and ranks 4th with a 110.0 passer rating as he’s thrown for 2,196 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Jameis Winston played at quarterback on Sunday in relief of Brees after his injury, but he was underwhelming as he completed just 60% of his passes and threw for just 6.3 yards per completion. Hill has only attempted 18 passes in his career, completing 10 of them for 205 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. I’m expecting an incredibly run-heavy approach from New Orleans this week with Hill as the starter.
Alvin Kamara picked up a foot injury that kept him out of practice on Thursday, although he returned to practice on Friday and maintains that he’ll be able to take the field on Sunday. With Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both missing significant portions of time this season, Kamara has been heavily depended upon in the offense. He’s rushed 104 times for 486 yards and 7 touchdowns and has also added 67 catches (third-most in the NFL) for 648 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s a pristine 16-game pace of 2,016 yards from scrimmage and about 20 total touchdowns. With Taysom Hill not possessing real downfield throwing ability and the Saints likely looking at a ball-control, short-area offensive approach, Kamara is going to be critical to their offensive success.
The Saints’ offensive line has performed very well this season, and that will be critical to their success in keeping the pocket clean for Taysom Hill this week. New Orleans has allowed 1.4 sacks per game, the 9th-fewest in the NFL, as the tackle duo of Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead has been dominant this season. However, Ramczyk popped up on the injury report this week with a knee issue, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to take the field this week. The Saints’ interior offensive line hasn’t been as dominant, and with a below-average efficiency as a rushing offense, the interior O-line will need to step up to keep this offense on the field and grinding out the clock this week.
The ongoing injury to Michael Thomas has been very problematic for New Orlean this year as the All-Pro wideout has only played in 3 games. He has just 10 catches for 95 yards over that span. I would have been very excited about Thomas this week against the Falcons, who allow the second-most passing yards per game, but I’m not anticipating a ton of passing volume from this offense this week. Emmanuel Sanders has 31 catches for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns through 7 games, impressive production given he’s playing in his 12th season and is 33 years old. Jared Cook has also been very solid with 21 catches for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, I’m not expecting a big game from any of these guys as Alvin Kamara should be the focal point of an offense that will look to go lateral much more than horizontal.
The Saints have arguably had the best-run defense in the NFL so far as they’ve allowed just 691 rushing yards, 3.3 YPC, and 5 rushing touchdowns, all placing them at or tied for the fewest allowed in the NFL. Overall, the Saints have allowed just 308.2 yards per game, the fourth-fewest, and 23.7 points per game, the 12th-fewest. However, injuries to several key defensive players in Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore could put this defense in a tough spot. Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson, and David Onyemata have formed one of the best defensive lines in the NFL this season. However, the Saints have 24 sacks so far, putting them on pace to finish about a half-sack behind their per-game pace from last season. The Saints have also allowed 20 passing touchdowns so far, the fourth-most in the NFL. Marshon Lattimore and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson have struggled in coverage and struggled to support Janoris Jenkins, although Marcus Williams continues to play like one of the best safeties in the NFL. New Orleans has a strong defensive front, but their back-end coverage can be beaten, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have had some huge games against this team in the past.
New Orleans Saints Depth Chart
Spread: NO -3.5, ATL +3.5
Moneyline: NO -180, ATL +160
Early on, lots of money has been hitting the Falcons as this game opened with the Saints as 5.5/6-point favorites and has been bet down significantly. We can assume that it has a lot to do with the introduction of Taysom Hill as the starting quarterback as it’s difficult to know what the Saints’ offense will look like this week. We know Alvin Kamara will be heavily involved, but beyond that, it’s hard to bank on a big offensive game from New Orleans.
The Falcons’ passing offense is also very capable of taking advantage of some weak back-end coverage from the Saints. I expect the Saints to attempt to dominate time of possession and keep their defense off the field, and the Falcons have just 10 takeaways all season, so Sean Payton should be able to make that happen.
However, I would much rather bet on Matt Ryan and Julio Jones than Taysom Hill, who has completed just 10 passes in his entire career. I’m betting on the under first and foremost due to how much time I expect the Saints’ offense to look to kill, but I’m picking the Falcons to pull out a late upset win in New Orleans and keep their momentum growing.
My predictions: Falcons win 24-21, Falcons cover, under 49 points
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Daily Fantasy Picks
As much as I just admonished Taysom Hill, I believe he can be a strong DFS option this week. At $4,800 on DraftKings, he’s the cheapest starting quarterback you can find, and I’m expecting some big rushing production from him in this game. The Saints will find ways to move the ball with Hill under center, and while he may not throw for more than 100 yards, he’ll have other opportunities to accumulate fantasy points.
With 67 receptions so far this season, tied for the third-most in the NFL, Kamara has had a dominant campaign, particularly through the air. He’s on pace to surpass 2,000 all-purpose yards, and you have to imagine he’ll continue to be the focal point of the offense with Taysom Hill under center. Kamara has scored 20+ PPR points in all but one game this season, and I’m expecting a similar outcome here.
Any time Julio is on the field, we know he’s going to be peppered with targets. It’s been an up-and-down year for him, with injuries and inconsistency hurting his production, but he’s fully healthy now, and the bye week should help him a ton. The Saints have been a middle-of-the-pack defense against the pass this year, and I think Julio can take advantage with a strong outing.
With the Falcons dealing with injuries to both Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, there’s a chance Hurst comes out as the team’s second-best target this week. Even if Ridley and Gage do play, the Saints have allowed the 6th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Hurst has as good of a shot of producing and scoring a touchdown as any other tight end in his price range for DFS this week.