Any hope the Atlanta Falcons had of returning to the playoffs this season has long been replaced by the despair of having one of the worst records in the league and a defense that holds opponents like a screen door stops wind.
This week, they are headed to New Orleans to meet the Saints in the Superdome. Despite opening day starting quarterback Drew Brees missing five games, and New Orleans losing the game he was injured in during third week action in Los Angeles against the Rams, the Saints have recovered. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater engineered consecutive wins over the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears before Brees returned two weeks ago.
While some thought Brees should not have played against the Arizona Cardinals the week before the Saints enjoyed their bye, giving him two additional weeks to recover from his hand injury, Brees wanted to get back in the game. He did it in spectacular fashion, guiding the New Orleans offense to 31 points in an easy win while looking as if his time off didn’t hurt a bit. The Saints 31-9 victory two weeks ago over the Cardinals sent them into their bye week with a two game lead in their division and the second best record in the National Football Conference.
Had Brees not started that game before their bye, waited until today to get back in action, there could be a question on how the long layoff might have affected his play. But, now, seemingly all those questions have been answered by Brees’ superb effort against the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, their NFC South Division rivals, the Falcons, have only one win leading into the same bye week as New Orleans. That victory, a week two conquest over the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, was loaded with motivational edges for the underdog Falcons. Still, Atlanta required a redzone stop at the end to preserve a narrow victory, 24-20.
The Falcons have been favored twice during their losing run, at home against the Tennessee Titans, a 24-10 loss, and on the road versus the Cardinals, a game Atlanta lost 34-33. Until their home game against the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago, the Falcons had never gotten more than four points on the spread. They were 7½ point underdogs to the Seahawks, and recovered from a 24-0 halftime deficit to eek out a point spread win in a 27-20 defeat.
In other words, the Falcons have been pretty much overrated all year, and have played down to their true potential while compiling a 1 and 7 won/loss mark and a 2-6 record against the point spread.
Overrated teams playing poorly are always point spread losers.
But, a team that has been overrated for weeks, but is now suddenly underrated, is lethal. This is a spot where a bad team can rise against a good team for two primary reasons. First, if the good team isn’t driven by a fear of their opponent for an upcoming game, they can often have a flat game-day performance. Second, a bad team that reaches the abyss where all the hopes and dreams for their season are replaced by a nothing left to lose reality, they pick up a huge motivational edge.
Everything based on how these two teams have performed up to now would point to another easy win for the Saints and a lopsided loss for the Falcons. But, Sunday in the Superdome, the game will not be a repeat of what has happened up to now, but more importantly, how the prior results feed what will happen today in New Orleans.
The Falcons have but one thing to play for right now, doing whatever it takes to not get blown out in the Dome. The Saints have the rest of the season which they hope will end with a Super Bowl victory to contend with, and likely will miss what is right in front of them today.
Qoxhi Picks: Atlanta Falcons (+13½) over New Orleans Saints