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Thursday basically 'must-win' for Falcons in NFC South race

06 December 2017

Plus, this is a crucial game for the Falcons in the big picture as they now sit outside the playoff standings at No. 7 with four games remaining, including two against the NFC South-leading Saints (9-3).

Fair or not, much of the blame, and the burden for these next four games, falls on Matt Ryan (above, right).

Thursday night games have always brought about a greater sense of pride and competitive spirit from fans of both teams in their respective domes. The Saints can extend their lead in the NFC South with a win on the road against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. The Saints won the 2015 season finale in Atlanta, completing a season sweep.

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- Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. With the win, the Saints are now 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS over their last 10 games since starting the season in an 0-2 SU and ATS hole.

And while the Saints are solidly atop the NFC South after winning nine of their last 10 games and sweeping the season series from the Carolina Panthers, Coach Sean Payton will not allow his team to count its current winnings while sitting at the table.

Atlanta countered with 83 points and 907 total yards, leading by 20 points in Game 1 and 25 points in Game 2 and winning comfortably both times, 45-32 and 38-32. Will get a better indication of that come tomorrow night.

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New Orleans ranks second in the National Football League in total yards per game with 408.6 and third in scoring with 29.4 points per game and is more unsafe than ever on offense with a rushing attack that averages 142.6 yards per game.

The Saints' leading receiver is Michael Thomas, with 75 catches for 875 yards with three touchdowns.

Defensively, the Falcons are eighth in total defense, giving up 321 yards 20 points per game. They were running back Mark Ingram (toe) and guard Andrus Peat (groin). Besides averaging seven yards per carry and now sitting 17th in rushing, Kamara is averaging slightly more yards per game as a receiver (51.2 vs 50.5). However, they should be able to take care of the Saints at home.

Wind Advisory in effect until 7 pm for southeast MI
Overnight lows will be in the upper teens to around 20, forecasters said, and there is a slight chance of snow Friday morning. Much cooler air will rush in with many locations not getting past the 50s on Saturday with a breezy north wind.

The Falcons will need to use a strong push up front from the defensive line and the linebackers swarming pitching in to help slow down the Saints' rushing attack. Rookie corner Marshon Lattimore has more than held his own as the Saints No. 1 corner. Then, on Christmas Eve the Dirty Birds play in New Orleans for a nice Christmas snack. Ryan threw four touchdowns.

Thursday basically 'must-win' for Falcons in NFC South race