When the New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons, it’s historically a back-and-forth affair. The teams have traded blows and victories during their past three games, and since the Saints won last year, history would seem to indicate that the Falcons will win tonight’s ESPN Thursday Night Football matchup and send the Saints home with a loss. But this year’s Saints team is 8-2 and a juggernaut on both offense and defense. The Falcons, meanwhile, have a lowly 2-8 record and have fallen far from the height of their 2012 season. Tonight’s game is bound to be a one-sided affair, but it’ll likely be an entertaining one as well. If you can’t catch the Saints vs Falcons game live broadcast on ESPN, you can watch Thursday Night Football online free using one of several different methods.
Kickoff for tonight’s game in the Georgia Dome is scheduled for 8:25 EST / 5:25 PST, and it’ll probably turn out that the Saints’ first scoring drive will end about four minutes later. The Saints this season have been far more prolific at home in the Superdome, but against a 2-8 Falcons team the road environment should be just as hospitable. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is primed to have a big game tonight, as he’s gone 277-406 for 3,369 yards and 26 touchdowns through 11 weeks. Those stats have earned him the #3 quarterback ranking according to ESPN, and he may leap into the #2 spot if he can really work magic against a Falcons defense that’s giving up 249 yards passing and almost 382 total yards per game.
With that said, Drew Brees won’t be the only star quarterback to take the field tonight in the Georgia Dome. Two of the game’s best quarterbacks will be going head-to-head tonight, as Falcons QB Matt Ryan has had a top-10 season so far (in terms of QBR). The Saints vs Falcons may technically be a one-sided contest for NFC South supremacy, but more intriguing may be the quarterback battle, as Matt Ryan’s gone 267-404 for 2,868 yards and 18 TDs. Brees has the edge, obviously, but those are still great numbers by any measure.
Granted, part of Ryan’s success has been because the Atlanta Falcons’ rushing game has been so unproductive this season. In fact, Falcons head coach Mike Smith is turning to a career special teamer, Antone Smith, to provide a spark of big-play life to Atlanta’s ground attack. When you watch Thursday Night Football online free tonight, you’ll see fourth-string tailback Antone Smith taking more reps after unloading for runs of 50 and 38 yards late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss against the Buccaneers. Normally two isolated runs wouldn’t warrant a fourth-stringer vaulting into significant playing time, but it speaks volumes about the Falcons’ desperate need for new life in their running game. Getting that game going will also relieve some burden on Ryan, who’ll undoubtedly be keyed-in on tonight by the Saints.
And when the Saints defense focuses on you, you’re in trouble. So far the Saints D is ranked fourth in the league, an impressive ranking that’s incredibly lower than their second-ranked passing game and second-ranked total offense. New Orleans is giving up 305 yards per game and holding opponents to 18.3 points per game. Compare that to the Falcons, who are allowing a whopping 29.2 points per game, and you’ve got a recipe for success for the already-high-scoring Saints. Naturally, then, it’s imperative for the Falcons to find some balance between passing and rushing if they’re to keep the Saints defense from completely owning the Thursday Night Football game tonight.
You can watch Thursday Night Football online free on DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket Package with MAX. The package requires a subscription, but anyone who has one can watch the live streaming version free of any game. ESPN also offers subscribers to their cable sports network through a satellite or cable package access to easily watch Thursday Night Football online free on ESPN3, which is also available through the ESPN mobile app and ESPN app on Xbox 360 (and soon on Xbox One). You may also be able to watch online with the Verizon NFL mobile app, which costs $5 per month.