New Orleans took over control of the NFC South with its win over the Panthers this past Sunday. But the Saints have no time to enjoy the victory, as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons.
Atlanta comes into this game desperate for a win after their loss to the Vikings put them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, with several contenders nipping at their heels.
The Saints, at 9-3, will be riding a red-hot running game into Atlanta as Alvin Kamara continues to make his bid for NFL Rookie of the Year. Kamara has made the most of his opportunities for New Orleans, posting 606 yards on just 86 carries, an average of 7 yards per carry, and has scored seven touchdowns.
Kamara has also been a receiving threat for the Saints and is second on the team with 59 receptions for 614 yards and four more touchdowns. Kamara currently ranks fourth in the league with 1,220 total yards from scrimmage, and became the just the third rookie in NFL history to total at least 600 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Charley Taylor (1964) and Billy Sims (1980)
His running mate, Mark Ingram, has gotten the bulk of the carries, and has responded with 922 yards on 180 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Ingram has scored nine touchdowns and has added 42 receptions for 255 yards out of the backfield.
Quarterback Drew Brees is having another Pro-Bowl caliber season after completing 291 of 407 (71.5 percent) passes for 3,298 yards, 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions, good for an overall rating of 104.2.
But probably the biggest surprise for the Saints has come on the defensive side of the ball, where New Orleans has climbed all the way up to 12th in the league after years at the bottom. The Saints are tied with Philadelphia and Baltimore for seventh in the NFL in total sacks with 33, led by Cameron Jordan’s 10. Alex Okafor has contributed 4.5 sacks.
Kenny Vaccaro has three interceptions while both P.J. Williams and rookie Marshon Lattimore both have two. Jordan returned a goal-line interception for a touchdown against the Lions.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has stumbled to a 7-5 record, and continues to struggle against better teams. The Falcons’ losses have come to the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Panthers and Vikings.
Penalties have been a bane to Atlanta’s offense lately, and dropped passes have contributed to the Falcons’ inability to overcome their miscues. But Atlanta remains one of the most talented teams in the league, and anything can happen over these last four games.
The Falcons’ hopes begin and end with the arm of quarterback Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan, who reached 3,000 yards passing for the eighth consecutive season. In his past six games against the Saints, Ryan has racked up 1,970 yards passing for an average of 328.3 yards per game and has thrown for 14 touchdowns and only one interception for an overall rating of 115.4.
Atlanta’s all-world wide receiver Julio Jones currently ranks third in the NFL with 1,063 receiving yards, and is averaging 104.6 yards per game over his past five games. Mohamed Sanu has contributed 48 catches for 495 yards and has scored four touchdowns to three for Jones.
Running back Devonta Freeman returned from concussion protocol against the Vikings and didn’t miss a beat as he finished with 12 carries for 74 yards and an average of 6.2 yards per carry. Running back Tevin Coleman has four rushing touchdowns and one receiving over the last five games, and has scored four touchdowns (three rushing and one receiving) over the last two meetings with the Saints.
Rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley has recorded a sack in each of his last three games, and is tied for the NFC rookie lead with five sacks. Cornerback Robert Alford is tied for the NFC lead with 15 passes defensed. Linebacker Deion Jones has had 15 tackles, five passes defensed and a 90-yard pick-6 in his two career games against the Saints.
How to watch Saints at Falcons
Date: Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
TV Channels: NBC, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
SB Nation Coverage: Canal Street Chronicles and The Falcoholic
Online Streaming: NBC Sports will be streaming the game and Amazon Prime Video Service, international viewers can use NFL Game Pass.
Radio: 92.9 The Game Live Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Boomer Esiason (analyst) will call the action and Scott Graham will host pregame and halftime shows.
Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (color analyst) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter).
Odds: Saints: -1.5; over/under: 53.5 (Bovada)