This is going to perhaps be the strangest Saints game ever under Sean Payton’s tenure.
In fact, Payton is under a lot of pressure here. He is going out on a limb going with Hill over the consensus better option in Winston, and he’s only added to that by labelling Hill as the “next Steve Young” in the past.
Hopefully, the Saints don’t try to become a team built around the running game. They aren’t built to do so, nor will the Falcons struggle to defend it. If they catch Atlanta off guard with easy passing windows for Hill by maximizing the threat of him as a rusher, however, maybe they can experience some success.
With just a -8 point different and three losses in which they had a win probability over 98%, the Falcons should easily be 6-3, and are thus a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Their passing attack is starting to click on all cylinders, while their defense is not only getting healthier but has played much better than the statistics would indicate. Right now, I believe they are undoubtedly the better team.
For that reason, not only do I not see the Saints covering as a 3.5-point favorite, but I think Atlanta wins outright. They’re coming off of a bye, and with home-field advantage not a factor this season, per multiple studies, there isn’t much work in New Orleans’ favor.
This may be the most lopsided quarterback matchup of the season, and with that in mind, relying on the Saints’ inconsistent defense or explosive plays on the ground is likely going to lead to disappointment.
That said, as evidenced by their play-calling and fourth-quarter struggles, the Falcons have mastered the art of losing games they should win. Perhaps the Saints can ambush them! Uncertainty theoretically should affect a team’s opponent, and that’s certainly New Orleans’ best chance of finding a way to win.
Either way, it’ll be very fascinating to watch Hill play. Is Payton right about him? Can he defy the odds as a 30-year-old with 18 career pass attempts? We are about to find out!