Special To Gaming Today
This has been a cursed year for the New Orleans Saints, who will face the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday night. And it’s not really about the BountyGate scandal that contributed to an 0-4 start and slide from championship front-runner to 5-6.
Curse No. 1: Before this season, there had been 48 Hall of Fame games in Canton, Ohio dating to 1962 that highlighted the exhibition schedule. No team playing in that game continued on to win the league championship that season. Ask the Saints and Arizona Cardinals how their seasons are going this year.
Curse No. 2: No team that played host to a Super Bowl on its home field or in its home city has ever even reached the title game dating to 1967. In fact, no such host team has even reached its conference title game. That’s another bad omen for the Saints, who are Super hosts for the tenth time.
So powerful is that Super curse that this season marks the fifth straight year the host team is coming off a first-place division finish and bolstered with high hopes. The previous four (Tampa Bay, Miami, Dallas and Indianapolis) went a cumulative 17 games under .500 and finished no better than third in its four-team grouping.
Enough about that. Now on to more about Thursday’s game:
PRO FOOTBALL – THURSDAY, NOV. 29
New Orleans Saints (5-6) at Atlanta Falcons (10-1)
Time: 5:20 p.m. PDT
Line: Falcons -4 (56)
Facts: New Orleans is 7-2 vs. Atlanta since the Coach Mike Smith/QB Matt Ryan era began for the Falcons in 2008, including their only loss this season, 31-27 as a 2-point choice in the Superdome on Nov. 11. • The 56 is the highest over/under number of the season. • The Saints “held” San Fran to 375 yards last week in a 31-21 home loss, the first time this season a foe didn’t reach 400. Yet New Orleans’ average yield of 454.8 yards a game remains on track to be the worst in NFL history. • Atlanta is 2-3 ATS as a home choice this season. • The Falcons haven’t been this big a favorite against New Orleans since they won 36-17 in 2005 as a 10-point home choice during the Saints’ disastrous Katrina season.
Analysis: Although the Falcons own a four-game lead in the NFC South, their eye is on the No. 1 seed. Their lead over San Fran is 1½ games for the home-field edge, which means Atlanta can afford a slip. But the Falcons don’t want to use that mulligan here, and especially don’t want to be swept by New Orleans.
In that previous meeting, Matt Ryan threw for 411 yards, a league-high for Week 10, and guided the Falcons on 3 TD drives of more than 80 yards. They would have won if not foiled by an uncharacteristic goal-line stand by NO.
Drew Brees, his two pick-6’s last week aside, is no less prolific for the Saints but his receiving corps took a beating against hard-hitting SF. It’s a wonder Lance Moore isn’t a heap of broken bones.
Forecast: Falcons 34, Saints 24
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].