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MNF - Falcons at Saints



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The amount of undefeated teams in the NFL has trickled down to two, as the Saints look to move to 7-0 on the season, hosting the arch-rival Falcons on Monday Night. Amazingly, it has taken until November for New Orleans to play its first division contest of the season, as the Saints will play three of their next four games against the NFC South.

Drew Brees and the Saints have been one of the top stories in the NFL this season, especially with the way their offense has clicked. New Orleans ranks first in the league in yards a game (427.3), while putting up a shade under 40 points a contest (39.7). The last two weeks the Saints have tallied 94 points in victories over the Giants and Dolphins, but the path to those high outputs came in different fashions.

The Saints routed the Giants at the Superdome, 48-27, two weeks ago, handing New York its first loss of the season. New Orleans got in the end zone in five of its six first-half possessions, while Brees tossed four touchdown passes. The Saints were on the verge of dropping their first game last week at Miami, digging themselves a 24-3 hole. Brees scored on a quarterback sneak to end the half, giving the Saints some life, trailing 24-10. Miami's offense started to come apart in the second half, as New Orleans scored the final 22 points of the game to win 46-34, covering for the sixth straight time.

The Falcons seem to be lost in the shuffle in this discussion, as Matt Ryan's club sits at 4-2 and two games back of the Saints in the NFC South. Atlanta started the season on the right foot, winning consecutive home games over Miami and Carolina, two division champions from a season ago. Obviously both these teams have fallen by the wayside this season, but they were still solid victories at the time for Mike Smith's squad.

Atlanta has always been a strong play at the Georgia Dome, but on the road is a different story. The Falcons fell at Foxboro in Week 3 to the Patriots, 26-10, as Ryan was held to 199 yards passing and reigning rushing champion Michael Turner was limited to 59 yards on the ground. Atlanta made up for that loss following its bye week by pummeling San Francisco, 45-10. However, the Falcons were tripped up in Dallas last week, 37-21, as the Cowboys amassed more than 400 yards of offense.

The last two Monday Night matchups between these teams have incorporated interesting storylines - one prior to the game and the other after the game. Back in 2006, following the devastation to the city of New Orleans and neighboring areas due to Hurricane Katrina, the Saints' first home game back at the Superdome was a Monday Nighter against the Falcons. New Orleans came out with a vengeance by blocking a punt and taking it back for a touchdown, spurring a 23-3 rout, easily covering as four-point home 'dogs.

In 2007, a very forgettable Monday Night affair at the Georgia Dome saw the Saints blow out the Falcons, 34-14. The largest story came following the game, as Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino quit the next day to fill the coaching vacancy at the University of Arkansas. The suspension of Michael Vick and the Petrino departure actually was a blessing in disguise for this franchise, as the Falcons claimed a playoff berth in Ryan and Smith's first season in Atlanta in 2008.

The home team won both meetings last season, while both games finished 'over' the total. In Week 10, the Falcons took care of the Saints, 34-20, despite Brees throwing for 422 yards. Atlanta didn't allow New Orleans into the end zone in the first three quarters, while Turner grinded out 96 yards and a touchdown.

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The Saints turned the trick in Week 14 at the Superdome, 29-25, covering as three-point favorites. Brees threw for just 230 yards, but did not toss an interception (as opposed to the three in Atlanta the previous meeting). A pair of Pierre Thomas touchdowns in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference for a Saints team that won just eight games last season.

In Sean Payton's tenure as coach of the Saints, New Orleans is just 3-9 ATS as a home favorite against an opponent off a SU loss. The Falcons have actually been a strong play off a defeat, going 8-1 ATS the last nine in that spot. Atlanta is 5-7 SU/ATS under Smith away from Georgia Dome, as this is the longest number the Falcons have seen as a 'dog since the start of last season.

The 'over' continues to dominate Monday Night Football, going on a 7-1 run to begin the season, and 23 of the last 28 since the beginning of 2008. Favorites are 4-4 ATS under the Monday Night Lights this season, while home teams possess the same record.

VI capper Bruce Marshall says the Falcons could have done a better job in the offseason fixing their defense, "Five key Falcon defenders (CB Domonique Foxworth, S Lawyer Milloy, DT Grady Jackson, and LBs Michael Boley & Keith Brooking) left town in the offseason, forcing Mike Smith into a full-blown re-tooling project for the stop unit. As a result the Falcons have been pretty soft against the run, especially since Ole Miss rookie DT Peria Jerry went down with an early knee injury, which along with Jackson's departure left the Falcons without a true run stuffer." The Saints currently rank third in the league in rushing at 154.5 yards/game.

A banged-up defense hasn't helped Atlanta either, according to Marshall. "Now more defensive injuries are piling up (key CB Brian Williams the latest casualty) and it is becoming harder for Smith to camouflage those deficiencies, which were ruthlessly exposed by Dallas last week. The hot Saints are certainly capable of doing the same and more, and don't forget about the Saints defense, either. While Brees & Company steal the headlines, the new Gregg Williams New Orleans "D" and its aggressive, attacking 4-3 scheme is making far more plays this season. Already the Saints have recorded five defensive TDs, a big upgrade from a stop unit that ranked low in forced turnovers before Williams arrived. For the moment, the Saints look awfully hard to beat."

Randy Scott, the sportsbook manager at BetED.com says the home team is seeing the money this week, "One thing is for sure and that's New Orleans will be in every teaser made this weekend. Currently, the Saints are getting slightly more of the straight bet action. The line has moved up from opening -10 to -11 and that's to combat the teasers more than anything."

Following the devastating Sunday the books suffered last week, Scott doesn't believe that moving the spreads up is necessarily the way to go, "Jacking the favorites up is one way to combat these types of decisions, but the strategy here will be not to over-adjust the line and keep the action the same."

The Saints are currently listed as 11-point favorites at most shops, while the total sits at 55, which is the highest in the NFL this season.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

  
 
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