In the first half of the 2013 NFL season, the majority of the Thursday Night Football games were uncompetitive. That’s changed in recent weeks with several close contests.

In Week 12, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons could continue the trend in their divisional matchup. The clubs will face off for the second time this year.

Only two of the first eight Thursday night games were decided by less than 10 points. The contests were also criticized for being sloppy, with several turnovers from each time. Since Week Nine though, the quality of play has seemed to improve. In those three games, the winner has only come out one top by one score, including one overtime game.

The point spread, though, would indicate that this game could get out of hand. The Saints are favored by 8.5 points, and the betting line almost reached 10 on Thursday morning. New Orleans has the second best record in the NFC at 8-2. The Falcons,who were once expected to be a Super Bowl contender, are just 2-8 and are tied for the worst mark in the conference.

The rivals are coming off two very different results in Week 11. The Saints had, possibly, their biggest win of the season, defeating the San Francisco 49ers, who are considered by many to be an elite team. Conversely, Atlanta had their most embarrassing defeat. They lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-28 and trailed by as much as 32 points. The Bucs went the first nine weeks without picking up their first victory.  

Matt Ryan’s play has been the most perplexing part of the Falcons’ demise. During their four-game losing streak, the quarterback has failed to come close to living up to the $103 million contract he signed in the offseason. He’s thrown four more interceptions than touchdowns during that span, and struggled despite getting back wide receiver Roddy White and running back Steven Jackson.  

Player To Watch: Matt Ryan

TIME: 8:25 p.m. Thursday

PLACE: Georgia Dome

TV: NFL Network

Online Stream:

Updated Betting Odds: Falcons by 8.5

Over/Under: 53

Prediction: Saints over Falcons, 34-20