New Orleans Saints can continue their playoff march
Atlanta Falcons still have offensive issues to address
Sky Sports Action, 1.25am Thursday night
With four weeks of the regular season to go, the NFC South is turning into a cracking three-way battle and Thursday's showdown in Atlanta looks set to be a key chapter in an intriguing story.
New Orleans head to the mesmerising Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the top of the division having won nine of their last ten games, while the Falcons are desperate for a victory that would help them narrow the two-win gap – Carolina are between the pair on 8-4.
The points line has been hoisted up to a lofty 53, but there have to be concerns about an Atlanta offence who have struggled to reach the heights of last year when they were the heaviest scorers in the league before their Super Bowl capitulation against New England.
Dan Quinn's side have suffered from the departure of former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who became head coach at San Francisco, and not even the return of running back Devonta Freeman from a two-week absence could galvanise them against Minnesota last week as they slipped to a 14-9 loss.
The Falcons won their previous three outings but the Saints appear to have their best team since they won the Super Bowl in 2010.
Their offence has always been strong under the guidance of the ageless Drew Brees and, while he has a host of receiving options, their running backs Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara form one of the best rushing attacks in the league.
Their defence has stepped up and they will be desperate to see rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore back in action after he missed their last two games.
The Falcons will be determined to bounce back from last week's disappointing loss, but it could be easier said than done and this looks a good opportunity for the Saints to push on towards the playoffs.
2pts 5-6 general
Venue Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Vegas handicap New Orleans -1
Vegas points line 53
Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore should have recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Saints' last two matches. Safety Marcus Williams is still struggling with a groin injury.
Guard Andy Levitre is out with an arm injury, while tight end Eric Saubert and cornerback Brian Poole (both back) are rated questionable. Corner Desmond Trufant has recovered from concussion and could feature.
The points total has gone over the line in 13 of Atlanta's last 17 home games.
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