Saints can take firm control of NFC South vs. Falcons

Graphic shows NFL team matchups and how they’ll fare in Week 14 action

By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
One of the NFL’s better rivalries has plenty riding on its latest installment.
Saints-Falcons on Thursday night also is one of the better midweek matchups on this year’s schedule.
New Orleans leads the NFC South at 9-3, one game in front of Carolina, which the Saints have swept, and two games in front of Atlanta, which gets two shots in three weeks at the Big Easy’s team. Considering that the Saints are 3-0 in the division, they truly are in charge in the division.
“We have to turn the page fast to get to New Orleans,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’re right back into our division. It’s all there for us, we know that.”
New Orleans, No. 6 in the AP Pro32, is a 1-point choice over No. 11 Atlanta. The Falcons badly need this one, but they’ve struggled in their spanking new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta’s playoff chances take another hit.
SAINTS, 28-24
KNOCKOUT LEAGUE TIP
Before discussing that, how about some kudos for Pro Picks hitting the exact scores on wins by the Steelers and Rams?
The Chargers came through last week, and this one is a bit of a stretch given who we have left. Let’s try CINCINNATI.
No. 1 New England (minus 11) at No. 24 Miami, Monday night
Patriots don’t have Gronk, which makes this a tiny bit closer.
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 33-10
No. 7 Seattle (plus 3) at No. 9 Jacksonville
Russell Wilson is making pitch for MVP award.
UPSET SPECIAL: SEAHAWKS, 24-23
No. 12 Baltimore (plus 7) at No. 4 Pittsburgh
Another test Steelers will barely pass.
STEELERS, 17-13
No. 3 Philadelphia (plus 2 1-2) at No. 5 Los Angeles Rams
After loss in Seattle, Philly phans getting antsy. Calm down.
EAGLES, 27-24
No. 2 Minnesota (minus 3) at No. 8 Carolina
Vikings’ win here establishes them as NFC’s best. Sorry …
PANTHERS, 20-16
No. 15 Oakland (plus 4) at No. 14 Kansas City
AFC West mess starts getting settled.
CHIEFS, 22-20
No. 21 Washington (plus 6) at No. 13 Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers do their part in AFC West.
CHARGERS, 30-20
No. 18 Green Bay (minus 3 1-2) at No. 32 Cleveland
Oddsmakers tempting us with this line. We’ll bite.
PACKERS, 23-11
No. 27 San Francisco (plus 3) at No. 25 Houston
Niners fans getting geeked by Garoppolo. But we like Houston here.
TEXANS, 20-13
No. 20 New York Jets (pick-em) at No. 30 Denver
This line shows how far Broncos have fallen, even at home.
JETS, 27-19
No. 10 Tennessee (minus 3) at No. 23 Arizona
Tennessee’s AFC South competition, Jacksonville, slipped here. Titans won’t.
TITANS, 21-20
No. 16 (tie) Dallas (minus 5) at No. 31 New York Giants
Bye-bye Ben factor makes us think this will be close.
COWBOYS, 23-20
No. 29 Chicago (plus 6) at No. 22 Cincinnati
Actually thought about this as Best Bet.
BENGALS, 26-13
No. 16 (tie) Detroit (OFF) at No. 26 Tampa Bay
Loser here might soon start coaching search.
BUCCANEERS, 17-16
No. 28 Indianapolis (OFF) at No. 19 Buffalo
Bills’ lengthy playoff drought about to continue, though they survive this one.
BILLS, 13-10
___
2017 RECORD:
Last week: Against spread (8-7-1). Straight up (11-5)
Season Totals: Against spread (91-88-6). Straight up: (121-70)
Best Bet: 8-5 against spread, 9-4 straight up.
Upset special: 8-5 against spread, 8-5 straight up
___
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL