National Football League
Preview
Atlanta at New Orleans
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, December 21, 2014
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

While the NFC South is the weakest division in the NFL, it also proves to be one of the most interesting heading into the final two weeks of the season. Three teams remain alive for the division title, but Sunday's showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints will go a long way toward sorting things out. The host Saints can clinch the division crown with a win and a Carolina loss versus Cleveland, but Atlanta also controls its fate and would claim the title with wins at New Orleans and at home next week against Carolina.

The Falcons have stayed afloat by going 4-0 against division foes, including a 37-34 overtime win over the visiting Saints in Week 1, but they've lost three of their last four overall. "We're at the point of the season we know where we're at," Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan told reporters. "Ultimately, we've got to find a way to get it done on Sunday. … Everybody understands the situation. Everybody understands what time of year it is, where we're at, and what's in front of us." The Saints, usually dominant at home, have lost four straight at the Superdome.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -6. O/U: 56.

ABOUT THE FALCONS (5-9): Ryan ranks second in the NFC with 4,112 passing yards — his fourth straight 4,000-yard season — and trails only New Orleans' Drew Brees (4,358). Ryan passed for 448 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the season-opening win over the Saints as he and Julio Jones (seven catches, 116 yards) torched New Orleans' suspect secondary, but Jones will be a game-time decision Sunday because of an injured hip that kept him out of last week's 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh. The Falcons could be in trouble if one of their top offensive weapons can't play because they rank last in total defense (409.9 yards per game) and last against the pass (292.5).

ABOUT THE SAINTS (6-8): Brees has gone over 4,000 yards for an NFL-record ninth straight season and has 31 TDs against 12 interceptions. He is coming off one of his best performances of the season in Monday's 31-15 win at Chicago, in which he went 29-of-36 for 375 yards and three touchdowns, giving him nine TDs and one interception over the past three games. Like Atlanta, the Saints have to produce on offense to make up for a porous defense, which ranks 31st in total defense (390.1) and has trouble stopping the run or the pass.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Brees has won seven of his eight home starts against Atlanta.

2. Atlanta RB Steven Jackson has seven TDs in his past eight games against the Saints while New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham has seven TDs in his past eight against the Falcons.

3. The Falcons lead the NFL in red-zone efficiency, having produced points on 38 of 40 drives inside the 20, including 26 touchdowns.

PREDICTION: Saints 36, Falcons 33

Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Atlanta 5-9 L2 24.9 26.4 3-3 2-5 2-2 3-7 1-0 4-0 5-5
New Orleans 6-8 W1 26.0 26.7 3-4 3-4 3-1 3-7 1-2 2-2 5-5
Last Meeting
Atlanta New Orleans
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/7/14 NO 34 ATL 37 568 123 445 472 139 333
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Atlanta M. Ryan 72.1 448 3 0
New Orleans D. Brees 69.0 333 1 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Atlanta S. Jackson 12 52 4.3 0
New Orleans M. Ingram 13 60 4.6 2
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Atlanta J. Jones 7 116 16.6 0
New Orleans M. Colston 5 110 22.0 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Atlanta J. Rodgers 1
New Orleans M. Ingram 2
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Atlanta M. Ryan 65.8 4112 27 12
New Orleans D. Brees 70.0 4358 31 12
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Atlanta S. Jackson 186 698 3.8 6
New Orleans M. Ingram 199 869 4.4 7
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Atlanta J. Jones 93 1428 15.4 6
New Orleans J. Graham 73 782 10.7 9
Touchdowns Player TD
Atlanta R. White 7
New Orleans J. Graham 9