The Atlanta Falcons are on top of the NFC South, and they're the popular football pick for Thursday night's divisional tilt with the struggling New Orleans Saints.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 13: 18-11 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 12-18 Total
If you cut the Atlanta Falcons, will they not bleed? The Falcons (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) suffered their first misstep of the 2015 campaign, dropping the cash in Sunday's 25-19 overtime win over Washington (+7.5 away). Atlanta's top-flight offense was taken down a peg when both WR Julio Jones (hamstring) and WR Leonard Hankerson (rib) started having issues; they combined for just six catches against the plucky D.C. defense.
Will either wideout be available for Thursday Night Football? The short turnaround could leave both Jones and Hankerson on the sidelines when the Falcons visit the New Orleans Saints (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS/NFLN). That hasn't stopped early bettors from pounding Atlanta as a 3-point chalk on the NFL odds board for Week 6. The OVER is also getting plenty of support with the total at 51 points.
In theory, the concern over Atlanta's top two receivers has been overblown. Jones was on the practice field Tuesday and fully expects to play against New Orleans after participating in the walkthrough. Hankerson doesn't appear to be a concern, either, after he was able to return to the Washington game and play the second half. But as we've seen countless times this year, you can't trust the injury reports. We're all day-to-day.
Our assessment of the Saints (1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS) also needs to be re-evaluated on a daily basis. Their defense came back to life in Week 4, when they beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-20 in overtime as 3-point home faves. But everything fell apart again in last week's 39-17 laugher against the Philadelphia Eagles (–6.5 away). Even a pair of red-zone picks against Sam Bradford couldn't stop the Eagles from pulling away in the second half.
You know a team is on its last legs when the head coach's name is being thrown about for potential job openings next year. Sean Payton is rumored to be on the wish list for several teams, including the Indianapolis Colts (!) and the Miami Dolphins. This isn't an indictment of Payton's coaching skills as much as an acknowledgment that New Orleans is in rebuilding mode.
If New Orleans needed any more incentive to blow it up and start fresh, losing WR Marques Colston (18 catches, zero TDs) to a separated shoulder might be the tipping point. Colston was due to have an MRI on Monday; he's expected to miss Thursday's game and perhaps much longer. No wonder our early consensus reports showed 94 percent support for the Falcons at the open. We'll take that under consideration before coming back later this week with our NFL picks against the spread and total. In the meantime, and in between time, may the prolate spheroid be with you.