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Thursday Night Football Betting Preview: Saints And Falcons

The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons had similar goals coming into this season. The teams both felt they had enough talent to compete for not only an NFC Championship, but also a Super Bowl title. That was where the similarities ended.

The Saints are the team that has won a Super Bowl recently, but it is the Falcons who have dominated this year. Atlanta is five games ahead of New Orleans in the standings, and can officially end the Saints chances of winning the division title with a win at home this evening.

Atlanta has one of the most prolific offenses in the league, with stars at nearly every position. Quarterback Matt Ryan has become of the NFL's elite. Running backs Michael Turner and Jacquiz Rodgers have formed a one-two punch in the backfield. Roddy White and Julio Jones pace a top five receiving corp, and Tony Gonzalez is considered among the elite tight ends in the league.

Throw in a stout Falcons defense, and it appears to many analysts that the Falcons are currently the team to beat in the NFC. For others, a wait and see approach is being taken after the Falcons bowed out of the playoffs early last season after earning a bye as a top two seed in the conference.

The story for New Orleans has been much different. The Saints inexplicably lost their first five games of the season after a tumultuous off-season. Head Coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the entire season for his role in a bounty scandal that rocked the Saints summer.

The offense has performed to the usual high standard set by quarterback Drew Brees. The defense, on the other hand, has been among the league's worst all year. After battling back into playoff contention, the Saints again self-destructed last week in a loss to San Francisco.

That leaves the Saints in the position of having to run the table to have an outside shot at making the playoffs. New Orleans must first win in Atlanta tonight, something they have had success doing in the past.

The Falcons are the betting favorites for the game, with odds makers installing Atlanta as a 3.5 point favorite. The total for the game of 54 suggests that a shootout may occur between Brees and Ryan. The Falcons are -195 on the money line, while the Saints return odds of +175.

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