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NFC South Preview: Falcons vs. Giants and Saints vs. Buccaneers

As the regular season winds down, Week 15 still has some good NFC South matchups. The Atlanta Falcons (11-2) will leave last week’s loss against the Carolina Panthers (4-9) behind and avenge last year’s playoff loss against the New York Giants (8-5) in Sunday’s rematch.

It’s been a long season for the New Orleans Saints (5-8) and their three straight losses isn’t helping matters. Pride will be on the line in their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7).

In the third game, it’s the Panthers vs. the San Diego Chargers (5-8). Both teams are having bad seasons but the Chargers have a sliver of hope to go to the playoffs; a Sunday win will help (-2.5, 44.5 o/u).

Falcons vs. Giants

Falcons WR Julio Jones

After last week’s surprising loss to the Panthers, history is on the Falcon’s side for Sunday: after a loss, they won have 11 previous games immediately after one and they haven’t incurred two consecutive losses since 2009.

Playing at home is also an advantage: they’ve won 10 consecutive games–the league’s longest active home win streak, reported ESPN, but not against the Giants; a home win hasn’t come since 1978.

Sunday could be the battle of the offenses thanks to both team’s wide receiver duos. The Falcons Roddy White and Julio Jones have a combined 4,392 receiving yards, while the Giants Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are right behind with 4,384 yards.

Jones is three receiving yards shy to hit 1,000 this season and this should be the week to achieve it.

Then we have the two quarterbacks. Falcons’ Matt Ryan needs 68 passing yards for his second straight 4,000-yard season. Factor in his 24 touchdown passes and he’s having a good year but last January against the Giants, he was held by their defense to 199 yards and sacked twice.

In their last meeting, Giants quarterback Eli Manning had 277 yards and three touchdowns. In his last three games, he’s had eight touchdowns, two picks, and a 103.6 passer rating.

Manning has a new weapon of choice: rookie running back David Wilson. In Week 13, he rushed for 100 yards, two scores and a 97-yard kickoff run for a third touchdown. He will likely start on Sunday as fellow backs Ahmad Bradshaw and backup Andre Brown are both out.

The Giants own the Falcons, winning four straight against them but it could end on Sunday (-1 with a 49.5 o/u).

Saints vs. Buccaneers

Saints QB Drew Brees

The Bucs also have a three-game losing streak and need to get hot to reach the playoffs.

So do the Saints which needs to begin with a win this week followed by Chicago Bear, Seattle Seahawk and Washington Redskin losses.

They also need a good recovery after last week’s 52-27 Giants rout. Their poor play included a team-low of 287 yards from six kickoff returns, which included Wilson’s first quarter 97-yard touchdown.

The wheels have come off for quarterback Drew Brees in his last two games: he only has one passing score, seven picks and a 53.8 passer rating.

But things could turn for Brees as the Bucs are giving away 311.6 passing yards per game. According to ESPN, should this continue, by season’s end this number could set an NFL record-4,986 passing yards.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has been in a slump lately (48 percent pass completion against the Philadelphia Eagles).

He will need to overcome the team’s Achilles heel–fourth quarter leads. Last week’s 23-21 Eagles loss represented the fourth time this season they couldn’t keep a fourth-quarter advantage.

In the team’s Oct. 21 meeting, the Saints won 35-28 thanks to clutch play by Brees who had four touchdowns to eliminate a 21-7 second-quarter Bucs lead.

It was also a great game for Freeman with a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns but those heights haven’t been reached since then.

And it isn’t likely to happen this week either with the Saints getting the nod (-3.5, 55 o/u).


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