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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Bye Week

Prediction: ATL 20, NO 34

The Falcons lost in Dallas and now are two games behind the unbeaten Saints with a 1-2 road record. The Falcons traded home wins with the Saints last season. The Falcons won 34-20 in Atlanta while the Saints won theirs with a score of 29-25. Saints at home in a key divisional game should be a safe bet to remain unbeaten.

Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 MIA 19-7 -4 43.5
2 CAR 28-20 -6 43
3 @NE 10-26 +4 44.5
4 BYE -    
5 @SF 45-10 +2.5 41
6 CHI 21-14 -3 45.5
7 @DAL 21-37 +5 47.5
8 @NO - +10 54
9 WAS - - -
10 @CAR - - -
11 @NYG - - -
12 TB - - -
13 PHI - - -
14 NO - - -
15 @NYJ - - -
16 BUF - - -
17 @TB - - -
ATL at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan     240,1
RB Michael Turner 50,1    
TE Tony Gonzalez   50  
WR Michael Jenkins   40  
WR Roddy White   100,1  
WR Marty Booker   30  
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Falcons really need this game to keep pace in the NFC West but that may be a pipe dream thanks to the Saints opting to use an actual defense this year. The same problem exists from last year - the Falcons are undefeated at home and yet have just one win away from Atlanta. That showed up last week in Dallas and will be a factor in this game as well. The talent is there for a playoff run but it will be while shooting for a wildcard.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan is having a solid sophomore season and has thrown for multiple touchdowns in all but one game - and yet that was a road loss in New England. His passing yardage has remained around 200 yards in almost every game but he was enjoying great protection until last week when the Cowboys sacked him four times. Ryan had gone four games without a sack.

Ryan passed for 248 yards and two scores when the Saints visited in 2008 and later threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns in New Orleans.

This could be a problem. While the Saints have been winning big, they have also only allowed four passing touchdowns this year. But the cast of opponents have been largely weak - DET, BUF, NYJ, MIA. The Giants passed for 250 yards and two scores in their loss in New Orleans and Kevin Kolb aired it out for 391 yards and two scores in Philly when the Saints came to town. I like Ryan to score at least once and have decent yardage in a game that will turn into a shootout for however much the Falcons can hang with the Saints.

Running Backs: While Michael Turner has been lagging in yardage this season, he has been a touchdown machine with at least one score in each of the last five games and seven touchdowns on the year. His rushing totals have tended to fall less than 60 yards unless it is against a soft opponent.

Turner gained 96 yards and a score on 27 carries against the visiting Saints last year and later turned in 61 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in New Orleans.

The Saints have been outstanding against the run and no runner has gained more than 80 yards against them - most remain less than 50 yards. But Turner always scores and the Saints have allowed seven touchdowns by running backs so look for Turner to have what is becoming his standard - average yardage but a touchdown and no catches.

Wide Receivers: Roddy White is the wide receiver version of Michael Turner. His yardage is usually around 50 each week but he has scored five times over the last five games. He had one monster showing in San Francisco but otherwise has been producing right around the 50 yard mark and one score each week. No other wideout had scored for the Falcons until the rookie Eric Weems in Dallas last week. White is the only safe or reasonable play among these wide receivers.

White caught five passes for 68 yards and one touchdown against the Saints last year and later had 164 yards on ten receptions in New Orleans.

The Saints secondary has been about average which is a major upgrade from previous seasons and considering how quickly opponents are forced into passing it has been a tremendous effort. Both the Giants and Eagles had two wideouts score but no other teams have. I like White to have a decent game this week because the Falcons will be abandoning the run and White should see a high volume of passes.

Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez has kept his string alive - he has scored once in every home game and had his best yardage totals in those games. But he has never scored in the three road games with his worst yardage totals. He had just 37 yards on four catches last week in Dallas. Expect a decent showing here by Gonzalez but likely no score and only moderate yardage.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 17 10 19 14 26 22
Preventing Fantasy Points    NO 5 13 19 3 20 14

New Orleans Saints (6-0)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DET 45-27 -13.5 49
2 @PHI 48-22 +3 46.5
3 @BUF 27-7 -5.5 52.5
4 NYJ 24-10 -6.5 46
5 BYE - - -
6 NYG 48-27 -3 47
7 @MIA 46-34 -6 48
8 ATL - -10 54
9 CAR - - -
10 @STL - - -
11 @TB - - -
12 NE - - -
13 @WAS - - -
14 @ATL - - -
15 DAL - - -
16 TB - - -
17 @CAR - - -
NO vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees     310,3
RB Pierre Thomas 60    
RB Mike Bell 30,1    
RB Reggie Bush 20 20,1  
TE Jeremy Shockey   50  
WR Marques Colston   100,1  
WR Lance Moore   40,1  
WR Devery Henderson   50  
WR Robert Meacham   30  
PK John Carney 2 FG 4 XP  

Pregame Notes: It looked like the Saints were going to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten last week when they fell behind 24-3 in Miami but the second half onslaught only proved how dangerous this team truly is. They have never scored less than 24 points in a game and now have four efforts that topped 45 points. Oh yes, and aside from about three games, the schedule remains a cake walk this year.

Quarterback: Drew Brees gets it done all different sort of ways. And so far - he always gets it done. After throwing for three interceptions in Miami, he turned back to his usual red-hot ways and ended with 298 passing yards and one touchdown thrown with two more rushed in on his only two runs in the game. The variation in Brees output is significant this year but the end result remains the same.

Brees passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns in Atlanta last year and later settled for 230 yards and two scores in the home meeting.

The Falcons have allowed over 300 passing yards and at least two scores in the last two weeks so expect a very nice game from Brees.

Running Backs: As great as the offense is, the more difficult it is becoming in sorting out the backfield each week. Pierre Thomas had eight runs for 30 yards in Miami but Mike Bell ran 12 times for 80 yards. Reggie Bush has done nothing in yardage for weeks but has scored once in both of the most recent games. The problem now is that the Saints do employ a three-man rotation at running back and none of them are safe plays. Certainly one or more of them will have significant fantasy points each week but there is no key to knowing which one. Bell has come on strongly these last two weeks but that is no guarantee. Mostly it has been Thomas not meeting expectations born of two high scoring efforts.

Thomas rushed for 102 yards and a score when the Falcons visited last year and he added a touchdown catch as well. Even Bush ran for 80 yards and had a touchdown on his three catches for 26 yards.

The Falcons rush defense has been good and allowed just one 100 yard rushing effort and only three rushing scores. I like one rushing touchdown and moderate yardage in total but the distribution I show has low confidence. The backfield is just too transitory and sensitive to game situation to rely on.

Wide Receivers: Marques Colston is still the only wideout you can rely on from the Saints and he caught his fifth touchdown on the season last Sunday in Miami. Devery Henderson has been marginal at best since scoring in week one and Robert Meachem did not even have a pass thrown to him last week. Lance Moore went from 78 yards and a score against the Giants to only two catches for 18 yards in Miami. Outside of Colston, the rest look far more promising then they ever actually pan out.

Colston had seven catches for 140 yards in Atlanta last year but only 26 yards on three receptions in the home meeting with the Falcons.

The Falcons rank as average against the pass only because they faced MIA, CAR and SF. The Patriots had Moss go for 116 yards when Welker was out and Steve Smith (CAR) had his only decent game of the year against the Falcons. Miles Austin just gashed them for 171 yards and two scores and everyone knew Austin was the one to cover. Figure on a score to Colston and one other that could end up anywhere.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey had his best game of the year facing his old team of the Giants and while he had 105 yards, he still only had four catches as he does every week. And he did not score.

Shockey had five receptions for 64 yards against the visiting Falcons last year.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 3 3 7 11 3 1
Preventing Fantasy Points    ATL 24 17 16 28 22 6

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