Saints can take firm control of NFC South vs. Falcons

AP

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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

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