The Atlanta Falcons have been the best team in the 2012 NFL regular season.
They have the best record in football at 10-1, and are in line to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Atlanta had just one misstep this year, and has a chance to avenge that loss in Week 13.
The Falcons are set to host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. The game is scheduled to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. You can watch a live stream online at nfl.com/tnf. The site will provide live “look-ins” throughout the contest.
In Week 10, the Saints became the first team to defeat the Falcons, winning 31-27. New Orleans won with a balanced offensive attack. Drew Brees threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, and a usually weak Saints running game even had a good day. Four rushers combined for 148 yards on the ground.
In order to compete with Brees and the dynamic Saints offense, the Falcons will look to match New Orleans through the air. Matt Ryan leads an Atlanta offense that is second in the league with 297.6 passing yards per game.
Despite being the top team in the NFL, the Falcons haven’t been as dominant as their record might indicate. Atlanta is 5-0 at home, but none of those victories have come by more than six points.
New Orleans, on the other hand, is under .500, but has played very well since Week 5. After starting the year at 0-4, the Saints have won five of their last seven. Their only losses in that span came to the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, two first place teams.
The Saints are five games behind the Falcons in the NFC North, but still have a lot to play for. They’re only one game behind the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks for the sixth and final wild card spot. New Orleans also has some motivation because of one of the Falcons player’s comments after their last meeting.
"It's not like they came out here and won a game," said Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White. "I think we kind of gave it to them."
White may have just been frustrated with him team’s lack of recent success against the Saints. New Orleans has beaten Atlanta four straight times.
Along with the rest of the Falcons receivers, White will likely have to put up some big numbers in order to pick up the win. Michael Turner has rushed for just 78 yards in his past three games, and was limited to just 15 yards against the Saints in Week 10.
According to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, this will be another close contest between these division rivals. The consensus betting line has the Falcons as just 3.5-point favorites at home.
Prediction: Between the combination of the Falcons close wins and the Saints hot play of late, this game could come down to the final possession. Atlanta has been very fortunate to win so many contests decided by less than a touchdown. Their luck might finally run out against a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Predicted Score: New Orleans 34, Atlanta 31