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    Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: Storylines, prediction for NFC South contest

    The Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints isn't the usual high-flying contest we expect. But there are a few storylines to follow.

    The Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints game doesn’t necessarily have a ton of matchup intrigue, but it does have plenty of storylines. Most surround the shape of the Saints, who lost their starting quarterback last week and were told they’d be without star wide receiver Michael Thomas for the rest of the year after he started the season on the PUP list. Meanwhile, the Falcons lost star receiver Calvin Ridley, who is currently suffering from mental health issues. He was placed on the NFI list.

    Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints storylines

    Saints head coach Sean Payton named Trevor Siemian the starter for Sunday. The Saints are down to a bare-bones offensive depth chart. Could they be the strongest Wild Card contender in the NFC aside from the Rams/Cardinals? Can Kyle Pitts step up in Ridley’s absence for the Falcons?

    Trevor Siemian: Can he drive this bus to the playoffs?

    It will indeed come down to how Siemian performs. The Saints still have the Titans, Bills, Cowboys, and Buccaneers on their schedule. However, if Siemian can play somewhat efficient football, this defense can take advantage of the lesser teams on their schedule, such as the Falcons (2x), Eagles, Jets, Dolphins, and Panthers.

    So, getting out ahead of the curve with five wins in their first seven games was imperative. Unless Siemian is bad — which is within the realm of possibilities — they should somewhat cruise into the playoffs. Luckily, he’s seen this story before. He had a winning record in 2016 and went 5-5 as a starter the following season, with Denver teams boasting solid defenses.

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    In Payton’s offense, the mistakes should be mitigated, and some of the production manufactured. They’ll also utilize Taysom Hill, probably often, as a Wildcat QB. Siemian looked good against the Buccaneers, but we see backups sometimes perform well in their first action, simply because teams didn’t prepare for them. Now, with 29 attempts under his belt, teams will have an idea of what to expect.

    I think this defense gets this team to the playoffs. It’ll be near impossible to win games once they’re there, but the defense gets them there, nonetheless. The rest of the NFC behind them is terrible. Carolina will likely drop out of the playoff picture. Thus, the Saints will need to fight the Vikings and 49ers for two playoff spots.

    Kyle Pitts must step up in the passing game

    By that, I mean Matt Ryan needs to understand he has a 6-foot-6 tight end with a 7-foot wingspan who possesses unbelievable athleticism and hands that devour footballs. He can literally just throw the ball up, and there is about a 50% chance Kyle Pitts comes down with it. The insane thing is, Pitts is on pace for nearly 1,200 yards, and he still doesn’t feel like a big enough part of the offense.

    I don’t usually condone force-feeding targets, but on a bad team with a unicorn on the outside, as Shia LaBeouf says, “Just do it!” What are you waiting for? Let’s see what he can do against Marshon Lattimore.

    David Onyemata takes defense to another level

    The Saints are already a top-five defense, and they were without one of the better interior defenders in the game. David Onyemata returned in Week 8 against the Buccaneers. He didn’t make a massive impact on the box score, but he played his first game against an outstanding Buccaneers interior.

    Oneymata should help both as a pass rusher and a run defender, making the Saints an even more formidable defense moving forward.

    Atlanta vs. New Orleans betting line and game prediction

    This line felt ridiculous at first glance, but it made sense after thinking about it. The Saints are 6-point favorites, and the over/under is set at a poultry 41.5. I know these two teams haven’t been high flying this season offensively, but it feels dirty for a Falcons vs. Saints game to finish 24-17.

    Related | Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Rams climb to top spot, Browns tumble, and the Saints win with Siemian

    Unfortunately, with how the Falcons’ offense has performed this season, the suggested outcome makes perfect sense. It’s almost like Vegas knows what they’re doing.

    Falcons vs. Saints Prediction: Saints 21, Falcons 17

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