New Orleans Saints (8-8, 8-8 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (7-9, 6-9-1), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
New Orleans has played under the total in six straight games.
The Saints are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games against the NFC South.
The Saints got Alvin Kamara going in the passing game last week with 5/68/1 receiving on six targets, and he added 13/32 rushing for his first 100-yard game since Week 14. Kamara finished 13/50 rushing and 4/54 receiving against the Falcons while playing with Trevor Siemian in Week 9.
Taysom Hill bounced back with 17.4 FP against the Panthers last week after missing Week 16 with COVID and posting just 9.5 FP against the Buccaneers the week before that. He’s seen 11+ carries in four straight games as a starter but he’s accounted for just three TD passes. Josh Allen posted 15/81/2 rushing against the Falcons last week, but they did limit him to 120 passing yards with three INTs.
Marquez Callaway has emerged as the top receiver in New Orleans over the last three weeks with 4+ catches in each of those games. He finished with 6/97 receiving on a season-high 10 targets against the Panthers, which gives him six catches and 95+ yards in two straight games playing with Hill. Callaway posted 3/25/1 receiving against the Falcons, this week’s opponent, back in Week 9.
Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends
The Falcons beat the Saints 27-25 as seven-point underdogs in a game totaled at 43.5 points back in early November.
Atlanta hasn’t covered in four straight home games.
The Falcons are 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games.
Atlanta is 7-1 toward unders in its last eight games.
Matt Ryan has thrown for one or fewer touchdowns in eight straight contests after throwing for multiple TDs in six of his first eight games. His last game with more than 15+ FP came against the Saints in Week 9 when he completed 23/30 passes for 343 yards (11.4 YPA) and two TDs for 28.5 FP.
Kyle Pitts became the first rookie tight end to reach 1000 receiving yards since Mike Ditka finished with 1076 yards as a rookie with the Bears in 1961. Pitts needs 59 receiving yards against the Saints to break Ditka’s rookie record, but he may not be available to do it after he missed the second half of Week 17 with a hamstring injury. The Falcons have little incentive to push Pitts to play this week since they were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Bills. Pitts had one of the quietest 1000-yard seasons a rookie receiver will ever have considering his fifth-round fantasy draft status and the fact that he scored just one touchdown on 105 targets. The arrow is still pointing straight up for Pitts entering his sophomore season even though he didn’t quite live up to the fantasy hype as a rookie. He should see some positive touchdown regression next season but good luck trying to get a discount on him in 2022 drafts. Pitts recorded 3/62 receiving on seven targets against the Saints in Week 9.
Russell Gage posted 60+ yards in four straight games in Weeks 12-15, but he’s cooled off the last two weeks with a combined 7/89 receiving on 10 targets. Gage finished with 7/64 receiving on eight targets against New Orleans in early November.
Cordarrelle Patterson has finished with fewer than 30 rushing yards in three straight games after hitting that mark in eight of his first 12 games. He’s also fallen below 30 receiving yards in seven straight contests after hitting the mark in six of his first eight contests. Patterson finished with just 9/10 rushing but he added a season-high 6/126 receiving in Atlanta’s victory over the Saints in Week 9.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29 (15th)
Plays per game: 60.8 (23rd)
Pass: 57.4% (22nd) | Run: 42.6% (11th)
Pace: 29.4 (18th)
Plays per game: 56.3 (32nd)
Pass: 60.3% (16th) | Run: 39.7% (17th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
With their playoff lives on the line, I see no reason for the Saints to deviate from their recent gameplan. In Taysom Hill’s four starts, HC Sean Payton has called a run on a whopping 58% of their early-downs plays – which, by comparison, would rank as the most run-heavy team in the league over the Eagles (56%) this season. Especially against this Falcons defense that has leaked the third-most rushing yards per game to QBs, we’re going to see a big dose of the Taysom offense here. Between the Saints going run-heavy and the Falcons offense cratering, this is the worst game overall in the pace / plays model.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Fabian Moreau has returned to practice this week after missing Week 17 with a rib injury, but he presence may actually be prefered over Kendall Sheffield drawing another start in his place. None of Sheffield’s responsibilities accomplished anything more than the minimum during his 25 snaps in coverage last week. When Moreau has been on the field, he’s granted his coverage with 0.91 YPCS (19th-fewest), 0.25 FP/CS (37th-fewest), and a 112.5 TPR (10th-highest). It took Hill’s third start of the season for the relationship to take root, but Marquez Callaway has emerged as Taysom Hill ’s No. 1 and a good amount of the field hasn’t noticed since:
- No TDs have been scored
- The evidence is split between Week 15 and Week 17 – Hill missed Week 16
- The Saints’ offense has only averaged 10 PPG the last three weeks
Regardless, do not make the mistake of looking past averages of 9.5 targets, six receptions, 104.5 receiving yards, and 18.0 FPs during the last two weeks working with Hill.
The Falcons will want nothing more than to see Matt Ryan finish off the ‘21 season with an explosive performance. In what seems like a lifetime ago, Matty Ice exploded against New Orleans in Week 9 with 343 passing yards, two TDs, a 135.8 passer rating, another TD scored on the ground, and 31.5 FPs. It was the last time Ryan would be a fantasy factor, posting less than 15 FPs in each of his last eight games.
Coincidentally, sans a big rushing output against Jacksonville in Week 12, Ryan’s free dive directly coincides with Cordarrelle Patterson’s own fantasy demise.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Saints have everything to play for in this one. They need to win and the 49ers to lose — both the likeliest outcomes, per Vegas lines — to make the playoffs.
They’ve been a pretty weak fantasy team all year, but Taysom Hill, Alvin Kamara, and Marquez Callaway are all viable this week.
As for Atlanta, it doesn’t appear like TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring) is going to be able to play and attempt to break Mike Ditka’s rookie yardage record at the position. That should mean an absolute ton of targets for WR Russell Gage.
Gage and Pitts could once again be target hogs for the Falcons next year. WR Calvin Ridley has taken most of the 2021 season off to focus on mental health, but is it possible a split from the Falcon organization is looming as well?
Asked if Calvin Ridley’s future with the Falcons is in jeopardy @wyche89 tells @MikeBellATL & @putemupcdukes “I’d think so. The fact that he and the team have been so quiet and he hasn’t surfaced, it appears like both sides could be looking for a fresh start.” #dirtybirds— DukesandBell929 (@DukesandBell929) January 4, 2022
This will be a hugely important off-season for the Falcons. Overall, I think Matt Ryan played pretty well, but he has so little help on the offensive line and on the perimeter, and the Falcon defense (coordinated well by Dean Pees) needs more talent as well. It’s just not a great roster.