It’s been a rough start to the 2016 NFL season for the New Orleans Saints, who take center stage in Week 3. They’ll host the Atlanta Falcons on “Monday Night Football,” looking for their first win of the year.
New Orleans enters their NFC South matchup with a 0-2 record, but they are just a few plays away from being undefeated. The Saints dropped the season opener 35-34 when the Oakland Raiders successfully attempted a game-winning two-point conversion with 47 seconds remaining. The following week, New Orleans lost to the New York Giants 16-13 on a last-second field goal.
Bad teams find different ways to lose games, and the Saints might not be very good. After two straight 7-9 seasons, New Orleans didn’t do much to upgrade the roster in the offseason. The defense allowed more points than any other team in 2015, and it didn’t look to be any better in their Week 1 defeat. When the defense didn’t give up any touchdowns against the Giants, it was the offense that faltered.
The Saints had trouble scoring on the road against New York’s defense, which might be one of the best in the league, but Drew Brees and Co. should bounce back at home against the Falcons. Atlanta ranks 27th in total defense, giving up at least 28 points in both games. They surrendered four passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston in Week 1, and the quarterback was picked off four times in Week 2 when he faced a formidable defense.
Atlanta went 8-8 last year, and they’ve looked like a .500 team in the first two games of 2016. They’re an inconsistent team, playing terribly in a 31-24 home loss to start the year, then going on the road and beating an Oakland Raiders team that might compete for a playoff berth. After a big win in Oakland, it might be time for the Falcons to have another one of their perplexing performances.
New Orleans usually plays Atlanta well under head coach Sean Payton, defeating the Falcons in 15 of 20 tries. Brees has put up big numbers in his career against the Falcons, throwing over 305 yards per game and 38 touchdowns in 21 contests.
The Falcons have been vulnerable against the run, allowing 4.6 yards per carry, and the Saints will look to exploit that weakness. New Orleans didn’t run the ball enough against New York, and Payton later told the media that the team’s offense needs to be more balanced. Mark Ingram had only nine rushing attempts in Week 2, and that number could see a significant increase on Monday night, likely to the dismay of the Falcons.
In a divisional game between two mediocre teams, Monday’s contest could go either way. Atlanta is a three-point underdog in New Orleans, via OddsShark, meaning the game would be a pick’em on a neutral field. With the week’s highest over/under of 53.5, the game could be won by whichever team that has the ball last.
Prediction: New Orleans over Atlanta, 33-28