Thursday Night Football’ tonight: Streaming, TV, why the Saints will beat the Falcons
A year ago, the Falcons had the same record they do now: 7-5. The difference is that it was good enough for a share of first place in the division alongside the Buccaneers. The Saints, meanwhile, were 5-7 (ahead of only the 4-8 Panthers) and on their way to their third straight 7-9 finish (and fourth 7-9 finish in five seasons).
And while the Falcons, at least as measured by their record, aren’t much different than last year’s team through this point in the season, the Saints are almost unrecognizable. At 9-3, not only will they have their first winning season since 2013 (which is also the last time they made the playoffs), they’re one of the league’s most balanced, dynamic teams. In recent years, any conversation about the Saints’ success began and ended with Drew Brees and the offense — the defense was an afterthought.
From 2008-2013, Brees threw for at least 5,000 yards four times and never had averaged 38.2 touchdowns. In 2012, the Saints were 7-9 even with the ninth-ranked offense. The issue was a defense that ranked dead last, according to Football Outsiders. Things improved a season later — the offense was No. 5 the defense improved to 10th — and New Orleans won 11 games. But 2014 began the three-year run on seven-win seasons due in large part to the lack of balance on both sides of the ball.
- 2014: Offensive rank: 7th; defensive rank; 31st
- 2015: Offensive rank: 7th; defensive rank; 32nd
- 2016: Offensive rank: 6th; defensive rank; 31st
Which brings us to 2017. The Saints are the NFL’s third-best team, behind only the Rams and Eagles, according to Football Outsiders. The reason: the league’s best offense coupled with the No. 11 defense. (Weird how that works).
Digging deeper on offense, this isn’t just about Brees. In fact, the Saints rank sixth in passing offense. It’s their No. 1 rushing offense that has been a difference maker. Mark Ingram, who was sixth in total value among all running backs a season ago is now first. And oh-by-the-way, rookie Alvin Kamara is first among backs with fewer than 99 carries AND is the NFL’s leading pass-catching running back. If a defense happens to catch Brees on an off day, good luck stopping Ingram and Kamara.
Meanwhile, here’s what that 31st-ranked defense did in the draft to get better: Take cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and defensive end Trey Hendrickson in the first three rounds. All three have been difference makers this season though none more than Lattimore who is already among the league’s best young defensive backs. (The team also added Kamara and tackle Ryan Ramczyk in Round 2; we’ve mentioned the impact of the former and the latter has started all 12 games and is the Saints’ third-highest-rated offensive player behind Kamara and Brees, according to Pro Football Focus.)
And those additions alongside what defensive lineman Cam Jordan is perpetrating against the rest of the league gives you a unit vastly improved over last season. It’s also why we like the Saints to prevail in a close game.
Our prediction: Saints 28, Falcons 27
To read about the Falcons, who will host the Saints on Thursday night,.
How to watch, stream
Seriously, Cam Jordan is an MVP candidate
Jordan would never win it but that has nothing to do with the numbers he has put up this season and everything to do with the fact that he doesn’t play quarterback. Consider this: He’s trying to accomplish so freakishly incredible that we can’t remember anyone previously considering it. “I’m trying to get this triple-double,” Jordan said, via ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett, of his 10 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and his 6-8 passes defended (based on who eventually gets credit from last Sunday’s win over the Panthers).
“I’m trying to Euro step my way to a NBA number,” he said, adding, “I don’t know a defensive end who’s doing what I’m doing.”
Not surprisingly, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is a big fan.
“I think he’s the best all-around defensive end in the National Football League,” Allen said. “I think too many times people just pick up the stat sheet or look at the fantasy football stats, and all everybody ever wants to look at is, ‘How many sacks does a guy have?’ But what Cam Jordan brings to the table is way more than that for us and the defense.
“He’s constantly a pressure player, he plays relentless, he plays a ton of snaps. He plays the run and the pass equally well. I just think as far as all-around defensive ends, I think you’re hard-pressed to find anybody that’s better than him.”
It’s Color Rush Thursday (again), y’all!
Every Thursday is Color Rush Thursday in the NFL. You’re welcome.
Here’s what the Falcons and Saints will wear:
Just like last season, Color Rush will be a Thursday Night Football staple. In the meantime, here is every team’s Color Rush uniform from 2016.
NFC Color Rush
AFC Color Rush
Thursday night schedule
- Week 14: Saints at Falcons, Dec. 7 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC and NFLN
- Week 15: Broncos at Colts, Dec. 14 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC and NFLN
‘TNF’ comes to Amazon
After Twitter hosted several “Thursday Night Football” games during the 2016 for live streaming, it lost a bid for the NFL’s 2017 streaming package to Amazon, which will stream 10 Thursday night games during the season for Amazon Prime members. You can read more about Amazon’s deal here.
Here are the games available for streaming from Amazon:
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