Quarterback Drew Brees will have to overcome injuries along his offensive line and his receiving corps as the New Orleans Saints try to keep their playoff hopes alive against the Atlanta Falcons on “Thursday Night Football.”
New Orleans enters the NFC South matchup in last place after falling to 1-4 following Week 5’s 39-17 loss to Philadelphia, while Atlanta opens up division play as one of only six undefeated teams left in the NFL. Last year, the Falcons swept the season-series with a 37-34 overtime victory in Week 1 behind quarterback Matt Ryan's franchise record 448 yards and three touchdowns, and Atlanta would then own Week 16’s game 30-14.
Starting guard Tom Lelito (shoulder) is listed as out and tackle Terron Armstead doubtful on the Saints official injury report, which could leave former All-Pro Brees open to even more punishment than he’s sustained in the first five games of the season.
Brees is tied for fourth in the NFL with 14 sacks taken after Philadelphia brought him down five times and hit him seven more times. According to NOLA.com, the Saints could start Senio Kelemete or Mike McGlynn in place of Lelito, but that guard Jahri Evans could be available after missing three straight games with a knee injury. And rookie Andrus Peat will likely start ahead of Armstead.
Long-time New Orleans receiver Marques Colston, who’s fourth on the team with 200 receiving yards off 18 receptions, is also listed as doubtful while starting rookie defensive end Bobby Richardson is questionable. The Saints are currently tied for No. 26 in the league with only 7.0 sacks and are second-to-last with a mere 12 quarterback hits, but could rely more on sensational rookie linebacker and sack-leader Hau’oli Kikaha to take down Ryan, who’s been sacked only nine times this season.
Though they will miss linebacker Justin Durant and starting center Mike Person, the Falcons are relatively healthy after just four days rest and will play star wide receiver Julio Jones despite his missing the first two days of practice.
Durant (elbow) is third on the team with 28 total tackles this season but is expected to miss his second straight game after sustaining ligament damage. The injury reportedly doesn’t require surgery but there’s been no word as to when Durant will next see the field. According to ESPN, Atlanta’s expected to use Joplo Bartu in base packages and Nate Stupar for nickel schemes.
Second-year center James Stone is likely to replace Person in the starting lineup. Signed as an undrafted free agent last season, Stone appeared in 12 games and started nine in 2014.
Jones, who’s second in the NFL with 545 yards and four touchdowns off 43 receptions, was hampered by toe and hamstring injuries in Week 5. So was upstart running back Devonta Freeman (toe), but he fully participated in Wednesday’s final practice. The second-year back leads the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns.
Kickoff and TV Info
The game kicks off at 8:25 p.m. ET with CBS and NFL Network providing a simultaneous broadcasts. A free live stream is available online at nflnonline.nfl.com.
The betting line opened at Atlanta -3.5 and is currently the same with an over/under of 51.5 points.