Saints at Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons look to avenge their only loss of the season Thursday when they kick off Week 13 with a rematch with the NFC South-rival New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta opened the season with eight straight victories before running into a hot New Orleans team that posted a 31-27 triumph at home on Nov. 11. Tight end Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns and Jabari Greer broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal late in the fourth quarter to preserve the Saints' fourth win in five games.
Atlanta has squeaked out a pair of wins since the loss to New Orleans, posting a four-point triumph over Arizona before edging the Buccaneers 24-23 in Tampa Bay on Sunday. Seven of the Falcons' 10 victories have been by seven points or less. After opening the campaign with four consecutive setbacks, the Saints got back in playoff contention by winning five of their next six contests. But their postseason hopes took a hit Sunday as they fell to NFC West-leading San Francisco at home, 31-21.
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network. LINE: Falcons -3.5, O/U 56.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (5-6): New Orleans would have vaulted into sixth place - and a wild card spot - in the NFC with a win over San Francisco. Instead, it sits in 11th and faces two more division leaders over the next two weeks. Quarterback Drew Brees extended his NFL-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 54 with three scoring tosses but also had two passes intercepted and returned for TDs. He now has 31 touchdown strikes this year, making him just the third QB in league history to reach the 30-TD plateau in five or more seasons. Brees joins Brett Favre (nine) and Peyton Manning (six) in that category. Brees (2008-12) and Favre (1994-98) are the only two to do it in five consecutive campaigns. Wide receiver Marques Colston notched a franchise-record 56th touchdown of his career Sunday. He had been tied with Deuce McAllister atop the franchise list.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (10-1): Sunday's margin of victory could have been larger had Matt Bryant not struggled. The kicker missed a 22-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in the first half and failed to convert a 48-yarder with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the second time in four games Bryant has missed a pair of attempts. Wide receiver Julio Jones showed no signs of injury against Tampa Bay, catching six passes for 147 yards - including an 80-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Jones had been limited in practice last week due to a sore right ankle. Quarterback Matt Ryan has now led five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this season and 21 during his five-year career. Running back Michael Turner capped the latest one Sunday, scoring on a 3-yard run with 7:55 remaining.
1. The Saints have won four straight and 11 of the last 13 meetings between the division rivals.
2. Graham and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez became the first pair of tight ends to have at least 120 yards receiving and two TDs in the same game.
3. Gonzalez caught a pair of scoring passes in the first meeting, the first making him the first tight end in NFL history with 100 touchdown receptions.
PREDICTION: Saints 33, Falcons 27.