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NFC South Preview: Atlanta vs.Tampa Bay, San Francisco vs. New Orleans

The NFC South has a slew of great games this week and the Atlanta Falcons (9-1) will kick things off against the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4). Will the Falcons finally get a decisive win or will their deficiencies again show up?

In the second game, the improving New Orleans Saints (5-5) will play the San Francisco 49ers (7-2). Drew Brees will compete against a new quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

The third division game will take place on Monday night with the lowly Carolina Panthers (2-8) playing against the equally bad Philadelphia Eagles (3-7). Will the Eagles hit their seventh consecutive loss? The bettors think so and give the Panthers the win at -2.5 with a 40.5 over/under.

Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay 

Buc RB Doug Martin

With its new coach, defense and rookie running back phenom Doug Martin, Tampa Bay has worked its way into the playoff conversation.

On Sunday, the team will look to extend its win streak to five–a first in a decade.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has improved a lot this season. In six consecutive games, he has made numerous touchdown passes giving him a 106.1 passer rating and since the first Sunday in October, a league-best 8.58 yards per passing attempt.

Also helping the team is rookie back Martin. In the last four weeks, he has rushed for 592 yards with five touchdowns. Against the Panthers, he impressively joined the short rookie list of 1,000 yards in the first 10 games of the season.

Adrian Peterson is the other member on this short list.

As for the Falcons, they lost their perfect record against the Saints two weeks ago and last week, it was a horrible one for Matty Ice with a career-high five picks.

He’ll need to get it together this week and hopefully he’ll look to throw to one of his favorite targets, Julio Jones. He was gimpy last week with a tweaked ankle, adding to the team’s problems. Ryan still has Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to throw to and on the ground there’s Michael Turner.

Cornerback Asante Samuel has been missed and will return this week along.

Will the Falcons win No. 10? It’s a tight one with the nod going to them at -2 with a 52 over/under.

New Orleans vs. San Francisco 49ers

Saints QB Drew Brees

In the battle of the backup quarterbacks last Monday, 49ers Colin Kaepernick won along with the starting role against the Saints.

Against the Bears, Kaepernick went 16 for 23, 243 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers.

But there’s a lot at stake this week in a rematch of last season’s NFC divisional playoff game with the 49ers as the 36-32 victors.

While he has a great arm and athleticism, Kaepernick has a top rushing offense to work with thanks to his running back Frank Gore. He represents an 83.1 average of the team’s 165.3 yards per game.

This could be a good week for Gore as the Saints have a weak defense. In their first 10 games, the Saints gave up at least 400 yards but it’s been a good November as the team has held opponents to a 19.0 point average as compared to October’s 30.9 figure.

There has been one constant for the Saints this season and it’s quarterback Drew Bees. His 28 touchdown passes are at the top of the league with his 306.6 yards per game placing him at No. 2.

This week he’ll face the NFL’s top sacker, 49ers Aldon Smith. He has a league-top 15 sacks with 10 1/2 coming in the last four games.

Brees may need to switch to his running game with this 49ers defense but it may not be a bad thing as it has improved in the last three games with 140-plus consecutive yards. He’ll look to Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory for help.

Can the Saints win four straight ? The bettors say no at -2 for the 49ers with a 50 over/under.



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