While the Atlanta Falcons (+4) have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the same is not yet true for the New Orleans Saints (-4). It’s fitting that these division rivals face off in the last game of the season in Atlanta. This game still matters, with the Saints clinging to playoff hopes and the Falcons relishing the role of potential spoiler.
In the past, this series has been defined by two offensively focused teams with franchise QBs dueling it out. That has changed. New Orleans clearly misses Drew Brees and they’ve been held to 20 or less points in 3 out of their last 4 games. Injuries on their offensive line and free agent departures have hindered this squad that is now just 19th in scoring.
For Atlanta, the trade of Julio Jones and extended mental health break for Calvin Ridley has left this new offense with just a couple of good weapons in Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. Matt Ryan has had a down year in his first year under head coach Arthur Smith and may not eclipse 4000 yards for the first time since 2010. The struggles of this offense seem to fall on the offensive line who have allowed Ryan to be sacked an atrocious 37 times this year.
After a strong 2020 campaign, the Saints defense has been pretty good this year as well. They’re 14th in scoring, 8th in sacks with 43 on the year and allow a passer rating of just 82.0, which ranks 4th. By contrast, the Falcons are 29th in scoring, dead last in sacks with a laughable 17 and they’re 24th in passer rating allowed at 96.0.
Forget the stats, though. These games rarely go by the script. No one expected Atlanta to win the first time around and yet they pulled off the late game comeback because the Saints forgot Cordarrelle Patterson could fly. This game could get very intense, as Atlanta undoubtedly wants to finish the season on an up note, and knocking your most hated rival out of the playoffs is a great way to do it. For the Saints, beating your rival in their house to get into the playoffs would help soothe the sting of that earlier home loss.
It’s a fitting end to the season for both clubs. It’s a game with intense relevance and one that could bring out some fireworks as both teams look to make their mark on the close of the 2021 regular season.
The Falcons are expected to lose, as the DraftKings Sportbook has them losing by under a touchdown.
Score prediction: Falcons 21, Saints 20
Bold prediction: Cordarrelle Patterson bounces back with a two-touchdown performance.
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Falcons vs. Saints Week 18
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Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.