The Atlanta Falcons have the NFC South title under wraps, but they’re playing to earn a week off when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the final regular-season game at the Georgia Dome. The division-champion Falcons can wrap up the No. 2 seed in the conference and a first-round bye, while the Saints are trying to avoid a third straight 7-9 season.
The Falcons know they’ll have at least one more home game before closing the curtain on the 25-year history of the Georgia Dome, but they aren’t sure when or whether or not there will be another beyond that. "Being a part of that is a cool feeling," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn told reporters. "We get this one here and then, past that, we don't know how many. We're sure hoping that it is going to be a loud one here Sunday." The Saints would enjoy spoiling the regular-season finale at the Georgia Dome and finishing at .500 for the first time since going 11-5 in 2013. New Orleans has won two of the last three meetings with Atlanta and is 15-6 against the club under coach Sean Payton, but the Falcons claimed a 45-32 victory at New Orleans in Week 3.
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -7. O/U: 56.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (7-8): New Orleans remains one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the league, as Drew Brees leads the NFL in passing yards (4,858) and has thrown for 35 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. The offense has torched the last two opponents, with much of the damage being done by Brees and top target Brandin Cooks, who has 12 receptions for 284 yards and two touchdowns in the that span. The Saints’ downfall, as usual, has been a porous defense that has done a decent job against the run but been exposed in the secondary.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (10-5): Matt Ryan has put up MVP-like numbers of his own, passing for 4,613 yards with 34 touchdowns and just seven interceptions to post a league-best quarterback rating. Ryan is surrounded by weapons, with star receiver Julio Jones (76 receptions, 1,313 yards, 5 TDs) and a solid backfield duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman leading the way. Atlanta’s defense has given up its share of yardage but also has come up with big plays when needed, including a league-high 14 1/2 sacks from linebacker Vic Beasley.
1. New Orleans RB Mark Ingram (940) and Atlanta’s Freeman (983) are poised to go over 1,000 rushing yards.
2. Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to an NFL-record 13 different players this season.
3. Saints WR Michael Thomas leads NFL rookies in receptions (82), receiving yards (981) and touchdown catches (eight).
PREDICTION: Falcons 37, Saints 33