Saints-Falcons Set for Key Prime-Time Duel

NFL WEEK 14 SWINGS INTO HIGH GEAR AS SAINTS-FALCONS COLLIDE IN NFC SOUTH BASH

OUR HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST: THE FINAL EDITION (BUT YOU KNOW WHO'S THE WINNER, RIGHT?)

Is this the "last stand" for the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons?

Well, keep in mind a loss here - and the Falcons have lost three home games this year versus Buffalo, Miami and Minnesota - would knock Atlanta down to 7-6 SU (straight-up) overall and that would be the NFC's seventh-best record and there's still divisional road games looming in Tampa Bay and New Orleans.

A little déjà vu for the NFC South, perhaps, as Carolina lost in the Super Bowl in the 2015 season and didn't make it to the post-season last year and that similar fate likely awaits the Falcons if they happen to get beat here (and note the Las Vegas pointspread has gone from Falcons - 2 to Saints minus 1.5 in the past 48 hours).
New Orleans?

Well, Sean Payton's squad is 9-and-3 SU and the Saints will exit this Thursday Night game in first place in the NFC South no matter the result but if QB Drew Brees and friends wish to land a first-round playoff bye - and thus keep pace with 10-win teams Philadelphia and Minnesota and stay even (although they don't own the tie-breaker) with the 9-3 Los Angeles Rams, then this is "must-win" material for the Who Dats.We'll get to the Thursday Night game preview in a moment but first this key reminder ...

Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have plenty of NFL Week 14 Winners - that's both Sides & Totals - beginning Thursday night when the New Orleans Saints travel to play the Atlanta Falcons. And don't forget we've got the Army-Navy game on Saturday as we put a capper on the regular season for the College Kids. You can sign up for the College Football Bowl games - there's 41 of 'em in all including the National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2018 -- so check with us here online or 1-800-323-4453. Plus, get all the daily/nightly College Basketball and NBA Winners too!


On Thursday Night, it's ...
NEW ORLEANS (9-3) at ATLANTA (7-5) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
It's been a long dry spell for the New Orleans Saints: Not a single playoff game these past three years in a row but what about the Falcons' "dry spell"? As in no Super Bowl crowns in the team's 50-plus year history ... ugh!

If Atlanta is gonna get back into the merry-go-round of the post-season, than this is a "must-have" game and the QB Matt Ryan-to-WR Julio Jones tandem is going to have to be a whole lot better than two plays for 24 yards (see last weekend's 14-9 home loss to Minnesota) while the flip side says the Falcons' defense must get a grip on RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II - they teamed up for 248 yards from scrimmage in the 31-21 win/cover against 6-point pup Carolina last Sunday afternoon and how about the fact this twosome has combined for 20 total TDs on the year?

Spread Stats - New Orleans is 7-5 ATS (against the spread) this year but note they've covered 12 of its last 15 games against fellow NFC South foes. On the flip side, Atlanta is just 5-7 versus the vig this year and the Falcons are a collective 23-24 ATS under third-year head coach Dan Quinn.

 

OUR FINAL HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST
There's gonna be three (3) young men making the trek to New York City this Saturday night for the award ceremony ... here's the lowdown:

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, Oklahoma - And your winner is ...
No question that this Boomer Sooner star will be holding aloft the shiny hardware this Saturday night in the 83rd Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation in New York City - and why not? Mayfield's season-long stats feature 4,340 yards passing with 41 TDs and 5 INTs while completing 71 percent of his pass tries. Mayfield has not always been the "poster boy" of good behavior but he easily shakes off his couple of embarrassing moments and becomes the first Oklahoma quarterback since Sam Bradford (see 2008) to win the Heisman. Hey, it helps that Oklahoma is part of this year's four-team playoff mix.

BRYCE LOVE, RB, Stanford - Too bad a wobbly ankle really kept this Cardinal star from bigger/better things this 2017 season: Still, Love rushed for 1,973 yards with 17 TDs (and an 8.3 yards-per-carry average) for a team that just missed out on a Pac-12 championship. Love finished his solid season off with a 125-yard rushing performance versus USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game and he could have done more damage except for the fact he - again - had to remove himself with the ankle woes. Would a 2,000-yard plus campaign have put Love "over the top"? We won't ever know.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, Louisville - Last year's Heisman Trophy winner overcame a shaky start to the '17 season to make it back here where he's a major long-shot to win it again. Give Jackson props for his 3,489 yards passing with 25 TDs and 6 INTs to go along with his 1,443 yards rushing and 17 ground scores (and 6.9 ypc average). In case you lost track, Jackson's threw for 200+ yards and rushed for 100+ yards on seven different occasions this season for a U of L Cardinals' club that is back in the bowls for an eighth consecutive season.

NOTE: More NFL Week 14 goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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