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NFC South Preview: New Orleans vs. Dallas and St. Louis vs. Tampa Bay

The NFC South kicked off Week 16 on Saturday with the Atlanta Falcons (13-2) vs. the Detroit Lions (4-11). Christmas came early for the Falcons as their 31-18 win gives them home-field advantage for the playoffs. The team’s march to the Super Bowl continues and the bettors give them 7/1 odds to win it.

For the Lions, the consolation prize for the loss was Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record. He broke Jerry Rice’s league record with Saturday’s 1,848-yard mark from a fourth-quarter catch.

In addition, Johnson also became the only player in NFL history with 100 yards receiving in eight consecutive games and the first player to have 10 receptions in four straight games after his 11 receptions for 225 yards and 1,892 total yards to date.

As for Sunday’s games, the New Orleans Saints (6-8) will play the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) take on the St. Louis Rams (6-7).

New Orleans vs. Dallas  

Saints QB Drew Brees

With three straight wins, the Dallas Cowboys are part of a three-way NFC East tie. They will need to win their final two games to capture the division title.

This week could be a tough one as the Saints are 3-0 on Dallas’ home turf with quarterback Drew Brees at the helm.

But Brees has good weeks and bad ones. Last week against Tampa, he passed for 307 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the team’s 41-0 win. He is the league’s leader with 36 touchdown passes and passing yards; he needs an additional 665 yards for a third 5,000-yard season.

Brees will will face a tough Dallas secondary with cornerback Brandon Carr who has made an interception in the last two games; he could be paired with his fellow cornerback rookie Morris Claiborne on Sunday which wouldn’t be good for Brees.

As for Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, he’s been playing well through the team’s win streak by passing 912 yards (66.7 completion and No. 4 in the league), six touchdowns and one pick.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant is playing with a broken finger and would be missed if he sat out. With his 10 touchdown receptions to date, he is No. 3 in the NFL.

This week could bode well for Bryant as the Saints sit at the bottom of the league, giving up 446.2 yards per game.

With history against them, Dallas looks to prevail this week (-2.5, 52.5 o/u).

Tampa vs. St. Louis

Tampa RB Doug Martin

After a strong early start, Tampa has lost four in a row and have seen their playoff hopes end.

For St. Louis, they could still see a postseason but it wouldn’t come with the stars aligning, it would be more like a miracle.

The team has won three of its last four and that has partially come from good play by its quarterback Sam Bradford. Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, he passed for a career-high 377 yards with three scores but fell short of a win.

This week could bring high numbers again for Bradford as Tampa is the NFL-worst with its 310.6 passing yards per game.

One of his weapons of choice is running back Steven Jackson who hit a career 10,000 yards–the 27th player to do so–last week and in his final two games, he’ll try to add 92 yards to surpass 1,000 yards for an eighth straight season, padding his team record.

This week could be tough as Tampa is the NFL’s top run defense, allowing 83.3 yards per game.

Their quarterback Josh Freeman will need to break his December rut this week. He has a season-high four picks and a lost fumble. Factor in his 48.3 percent pass completion rate for the month and his 60.8 pass rating and this is a recipe for another long Sunday.

Rookie running back Doug Martin could have a good Sunday against St. Louis’ run defense. The team has allowed a 136.4 rushing yard average in the last seven games.

This could be the week Tampa snaps its losing streak (-3, 44 o/u).


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