Divisional football in the back half of the season tends to be wild. That continues to be the case here in Week 11 of the 2020 season as the New Orleans Saints host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
At 3-6, Atlanta is coming off its bye and looking for a late surge to push them into a playoff position. Meanwhile, the Saints lead the division at 7-2 but lost Drew Brees to a rib/lung injury that will land him on short-term injured reserve for at least three weeks. This exact injury is why the Saints aren’t favored to defeat the Falcons by a larger margin.
Sunday will prove to be a major test for Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris, who will need to remain poised and prepare for navigating a comeback if Atlanta is behind. Morris is 3-3 all-time as a head coach against the Saints. On the other side of the field, Sean Payton is 18-8 when opposing the Falcons.
While the Saints have been good for a long time, Atlanta has historically bested them. The Falcons are 52-49 all-time against the Saints and have defeated them in four of their last five matchups. In fact, the Falcons swept the Saints in 2019, handing them two of their three losses.
Taysom Hill is slated to make his first career start at quarterback on Sunday. The 30-year-old offensive weapon has completed 10 of 18 passes in his career for 205 yards and an interception. He has done a lot more with the ball being delivered to him, adding 850 yards and 11 touchdowns on 98 rushes and 28 catches. The growing expectation heading into Week 11 was that Jameis Winston would start under center, but Hill took first-team reps all week and is now the QB1 in New Orleans.
Hill’s start could impact the passing game, which has seen its inconsistencies so far this year with Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both missing time. This means a larger workload for elite running back Alvin Kamara, who leads the Saints in both rushing and receiving. Latavius Murray is also in line for an expanded backfield role.
The storyline for Atlanta also comes on offense, a unit that has been explosive for them so far. Matt Ryan has looked solid while Hayden Hurst, Todd Gurley, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley have combined with their quarterback to form one of the scariest five-headed monsters in the league.
Defensively, neither team has been exceptional. The Saints have a better defense, but it can be described as average at best. Trey Hendrickson has been one of the brighter spots for New Orleans as he has 7.5 sacks in his fourth pro season. Meanwhile, for Atlanta, their running defense has been solid but their secondary has emerged as one of the worst in football, which will take some of the much-needed pressure of Hill in his first start.
Date: Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020
Start Time: 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: New Orleans, La.
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV Info: FOX
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Point Spread: NO -3 (-110) | ATL +3 (-110)
Moneyline: NO -185 | ATL +150
Over/Under: O 49 (-110) | U 49 (-110)
The odds for this game have narrowed significantly, with the Saints now favored by just a field goal. It’s possible that the game does come down to one kick, so you might want to avoid the spread. Another close bet is the over/under, but the former is likely safer. Both of these offenses have looked strong while their defenses have been mediocre at best, leaving the potential for a back-and-forth blowout. Take the over in this one.
The outcome of this game depends on how Hill plays on Sunday. Sean Payton will likely keep him under a tight game plan, forcing him to utilize Murray and Kamara. It could be close, but the Saints should pick up another divisional win.
Final Score: Saints 27, Falcons 24
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