The New Orleans Saints could actually make the playoffs in the 2021 season. This is a thing that is realistically possible despite a season filled with natural disasters, injuries, Covid outbreaks, and a fire (of all things).
All it takes is for the Saints to beat the division rival Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon and for the Los Angeles Rams to beat the San Francisco 49ers. That’s it.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Saints are now 3.5 point favorites, after starting the week with the margin at 4.5 points. The media now has even more confidence in the Saints’ ability to cover the spread.
That the Saints are still alive for a playoff spot is nothing short of remarkable. This is a team that saw its Hall of Fame quarterback retire after the 2020 season and has since started Jameis Winston. And Trevor Siemian. And Taysom Hill. And Ian Book.
OK, the last one was a disaster. But if the Saints can get past the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and the Rams beat the 49ers, New Orleans will hit the road as the NFC’s No. 7 seed.
The first part of that equation is not a given—the Falcons have long been a tough out for the Saints, and Atlanta won the first meeting between the teams 27-25 back in Week 9. But the Falcons are also a bad football team—Atlanta ranks 26th in total offense, 24th in total defense, 27th in scoring offense and 29th in scoring defense.
The vast majority of our experts, including Sobleski, expect the Saints to hold up their end on the road.
“This pick is all about the Saints’ defense,” he wrote. “The unit hasn’t allowed two touchdowns in any game since Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. On the flip side, the Falcons offense isn’t exactly lighting it up in recent weeks. Matt Ryan averaged 209.5 yards passing over the previous four games. He’s also tied for fifth as the league’s most-sacked quarterback. The Saints will get after Ryan and Co. The hope is the New Orleans offense can provide enough to cover the spread.”
The Saints have had success as a favorite this season, with five wins in eight games.
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kenyon: New Orleans
O’Donnell: New Orleans
Rogers: New Orleans
Sobleski: New Orleans
Score Prediction: Saints 19, Falcons 13
MDS’s take: The Saints are still in contention heading into the final game of the season, which is impressive given their injury and COVID-19 situations this season. I think they’ll take care of business on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: The Saints still have a chance to get to the playoffs. If they make it, they could make things interesting. Especially for the Buccaneers.
Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Falcons 17.
The Saints find themselves in one of the more intriguing playoff situations. They can clinch a spot with a win and a San Francisco 49ers loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Saints have won the last three meetings in Atlanta. The Falcons aren’t playing for anything except pride at this point, and each of their last five losses have come by double-digits.
New Orleans has one of the best defenses in the NFL. Although the Saints’ offense is near the bottom of the league, I have faith this unit will be juiced up enough to pull out a win. Taysom Hill hasn’t dropped games to lesser teams. He defeated the Jets by 21 points and the Carolina Panthers by eight points last week.
The pick: Saints -4.5
Projected score: Saints 26-20
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