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The playoff picture in the NFC has gotten very, very interesting for Monday Night Football this week, and it all wraps up with a clash between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. These two teams certainly do not like each other, and they played a fantastic duel the first time around in Week 4. K Garrett Hartley missed a chip shot field goal attempt in overtime that would have won the game and put the NFC South at a deadlock. Now, with a two game edge, the Falcons have a chance to put a stranglehold on the conference. Check out our Monday Night Football picks for one of the biggest games of the year!
Matchup: New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
Date: Monday, December 27th, 8:30 ET
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Game Line: Atlanta -2.5
Saints Notes: With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning this week, the pressure is really on the Saints, who know that they need to win this game to avoid what could be a do or die duel against the visiting Bucs next week at the Superdome. Winning this one still leaves a chance there to win the NFC South and the No. 1 overall seed in the conference. Two very notable injuries really could be harmful to the offense's efforts. WR Robert Meachem is the lesser known injury, as he suddenly popped up on the injury report with a toe injury. RB Chris Ivory really needs to get into the fold again, as he has become a critical part of the running game with both RB Reggie Bush and RB Pierre Thomas missing a good chunk of the season. Now, Ivory is the one that is down with a hamstring injury that cost him last week's loss against the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, QB Drew Brees is once again going to have all the pressure in the world on his back. He has already thrown the ball 571 times this year, and he has 4,122 yards and 31 TDs this year. The problem he has is that he has also thrown 19 picks, one of the highest totals in the NFL. WR Marques Colston is the top target for Brees on the year. He has caught 82 passes for 1,002 yards and seven TDs. WR Lance Moore has been the unsung hero as the slot receiver. He has 56 grabs for 662 yards, and he leads the team with eight trips to the end zone on offense. Defensively, allowing at least 27 points three times over the course of the last four weeks really leaves some room for pessimism against one of the best teams that the league has to offer.
Falcons Notes: The equation for the Falcons is simple. They need to win this game or win next week against the Carolina Panthers to snare the top seed in the NFC South. This task really shouldn't be all that difficult considering the fact that QB Matt Ryan has only been beaten once in his career at home. The numbers here just aren't that impressive, as it isn't often that you see a team that is 12-2 that averages 349.4 yards per game and is allowing 332.9 yards per game. Both numbers are very middling in relation to the rest of the league, but the job is still getting done when push comes to shove. Ryan has a lot of great help at his disposal this year, but we can't discount the job that he has done. The former Boston College Eagle has thrown for 3,321 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. RB Michael Turner ran wild on the Saints the first time around in one of his five 100+ yard games on the ground this year. He has 1,256 yards and 11 TDs this year, and he is certainly one of the most used running backs in the NFL. WR Roddy White is arguably the best receiver in the league this year. He has 106 receptions, 1,284 yards, and eight TDs. Don't forget about TE Tony Gonzalez, though. The future Hall of Famer has caught 62 passes for 591 yards and five TDs. Defensively, the secondary has had its moments of failure for the second straight season, but the pass rush this year really has been great. DE John Abraham has picked up 12 sacks this year, and he is well on his way to being one of the top sack leaders in the game.
The Final Word: Atlanta really needs to just put this one away and just move on to the playoffs. The Saints are a solid team, but they really are up against it in this one. As they found out last week at the Ravens, winning on the road in this league is very, very difficult. The task of stopping the Falcons at the Georgia Dome is darn near impossible, though. Atlanta really did outplay New Orleans at the Superdome three months ago, and we wouldn't be surprised if we have the exact same result again on Monday.
Free Pro Football Picks: Atlanta -2.5
Prediction: Atlanta 27- New Orleans 17