NFL 2019 (Week 13): New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 13): New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

If you were told three weeks ago that the Falcons-Saints game would be a 26-9 final score, very few would be surprised. But the Falcons coming out on top of that lopsided affair? That’s a horse of a different color. Atlanta ended a six-game losing streak while also snapping New Orleans’ six-game winning streak, and it took place in the Superdome, to add to the surprise. That game is proof positive that, although we think we know what is going to happen, the NFL is unpredictable on a game-by-game basis. Another NFL truism is that the most important game is always the next one, so what occurred on November 10 has little or no effect on this game. Julio Jones is questionable to play, but Devonta Freeman is scheduled to make his return after leaving the previous Saints game with a foot injury. Drew Brees and Michael Thomas have their team slotted as the second seed in current playoff projections, so any more unexpected losses could cost them a valuable first round bye (and possibly home field advantage). Wake up from your tryptophan nap and dig in to the third course of Thanksgiving NFL games--there’s always room for more!

Saints: With three key exceptions, New Orleans has a fairly healthy team at this point in the season. Drew Brees looks every bit of his Hall of Fame self after returning from a broken thumb, but he will be lining up behind backups on the left side of his line against Atlanta. Tackle Terron Armstead and guard Andrus Peat are both out, where they will be replaced by Patrick Omameh and Ethan Greenidge. Vic Beasley has never regained his 15.5 sack form from 2016, but he could easily wreck this game if the Saints’ backup linemen aren’t up to the task. Expect line slides, running back chips, and tight end help on that left side to keep Brees upright. Of course, another great way to keep your quarterback safe is to hand off to a stud running back like Alvin Kamara, who is still a threat to break a touchdown from anywhere, despite his down year statistically. The third key exception to the Saints’ health is cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is listed as questionable. Whether he and/or Julio Jones play in this game will be a major determinant in the outcome.

Falcons: Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones sat out of Monday and Tuesday’s practices before participating in Wednesday’s walkthrough. His status will be determined by how he feels in pregame warmups. Without him, Atlanta will be without their best player and are already minus tight end Austin Hooper as well. Freeman’s return is a boon, especially considering that the offense as a whole is averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Additionally, Freeman is fourth on the team in targets and catches and is fifth in receiving yards. On the other side of the ball, end Takkarist McKinley is questionable, and his absence could offset New Orleans’ injuries on the offensive line. While not a huge pass-rushing threat, McKinley does have 5.5 tackles for loss, which is third on the team. Atlanta had six sacks in their upset win earlier this month, so getting after Brees will be integral.

Prediction: Matt Ryan throws two costly interceptions, and his team is never able to close the gap in front of a sleepy home crowd.

New Orleans Saints 28, Atlanta Falcons 13

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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