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NFL Thursday Night Football Preview: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
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7 Dec 2017 01:54 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: New Orleans rookie runner Alvin Kamara. (Image Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Here’s a look at the Thursday Night Football matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints:

Series: Falcons lead 50-45; Streak: Falcons have won the past two; Last Meeting: Falcons 38, Saints 32 (01.01.17)

Time: 8:25 PM ET; TV: NBC/NFLN/Amazon (Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Heather Cox)

Where They Stand:

After starting the season 0-2, the Saints have won nine of their past 10 games to take control of the NFC South, one game ahead of Carolina in the division, one game behind Philadelphia and Minnesota for the best record in the conference. If New Orleans wins, it’s possible they could clinch a playoff berth this week with some help. Two games behind the Saints in the division are the Falcons at 7-5. Atlanta is in third place in the division but more importantly one game behind Carolina and Seattle in the Wild Card standings.

When the Saints Have the Ball:

The Saints have transitioned to more of a running team led by the dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Ingram leads the NFL with nine touchdown runs and in the past four games he’s put up 444 scrimmage yards along with five rushing scores. Kamara is just the third rookie in the history of the league with 600-plus yards rushing and receiving. He’s accumulated 529 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns in his past four road games. The duo has combined for 200-plus yards from scrimmage in five-straight games.

In two career games against New Orleans, linebacker Deion Jones has been all over the place with 15 tackles, five passes defensed, and a 90-yard INT-TD return. He’s made 36 tackles in his past four division games. Along with fellow second-year man safety, Keanu Neal, the two are among three pairs of teammates with 90-plus tackles this season. Another youngster making a major impact is rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who is tied for first among NFC rookies with his five sacks.

When the Falcons Have the Ball:

Quarterback Matt Ryan is a proven performer at home and against the division rival. In his past six against the Saints, Ryan has thrown for 1,970 yards and 14 touchdowns with just one interception for a 115.4 rating. He’s been as good or even better in his past seven at home against the NFC South with 2,522 yards and 16 TDs (3 INTs) for a 120.7 rating. Having another monster season is Julio Jones, who leads the NFC with 1,063 receiving yards. Jones has 361 yards in his past three against the Saints and he loves the bright lights with 23 grabs for 365 yards and three scores in his past three on Thursday Night football.

The Saints have one of the most productive safety tandems in the NFL. Vonn Bell is the only safety in the league with 60-plus tackles and at least three sacks, with 26 tackles and two sacks in his past three games, while Kenny Vaccaro had a sack last week and he’s picked off two passes in his past four away from home. Up front, defensive end Cameron Jordan, who has five sacks in his past six road games, is one of three players with 10-plus sacks and 50-plus tackles this season.

Score: Falcons 27, Saints 23

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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