The Atlanta Falcons are at a crucial point in their NFL season.
The defending NFC champions basically did whatever they wanted to a year ago when they won the NFC South and went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Their heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots appears to have brought on the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, as the Falcons are two games behind the New Orleans Saints and one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers for one of the two wild-card spots.
The Falcons will have to kiss the division title goodbye if they lose to the Saints Thursday night, and they will dig a deeper hole for their wild-card chances as well.
They need to play their best game on both sides of the ball against one of the most improved teams in the league.
The Falcons would be well-advised to get off to a fast start and make the Saints play catch-up football. If the Falcons can get ahead by two scores or more at any point, the Saints may become more predictable in their play calling and less reliant on their running game.
That unit has taken a big step up this year with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The defense has also been dramatically improved this season, ranking 12th in yards allowed after finishing in the bottom two spots the last two years.
Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game, having completed 71.5 percent of his passes with a 21-5 TD-interception ratio.
The Falcons are one-point favorites, according to OddsShark. The Saints are a better team to this point in the season, but the Falcons are desperate to win this game in front of their home fans. Atlanta wins the game as a result of a late field goal.
Week 14 Point Spreads and Predictions (Point spreads courtesy of OddsShark)
New Orleans at Atlanta (-1); 51.5, Over
San Francisco at Houston (-2.5); 43.5, Over
Oakland at Kansas City (-4); 47.5, Over
Indianapolis at Buffalo (NL)
Minnesota (-3) at Carolina; 41.5, Under
Chicago at Cincinnati (-6); 38.5, Under
Green Bay (-3) at Cleveland; 40, Over
Detroit at Tampa Bay (NL)
Dallas (-4) at N.Y. Giants; 41.5, Over
Washington at L.A. Chargers (-6); 46, Over
Tennessee (-3) at Arizona; 44, Under
N.Y. Jets at Denver (Even); 41.5, Under
Seattle at Jacksonville (-2.5); 41.5, Over
Philadelphia at L.A. Rams (-2.5); 48, Under
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-5); 43.5, Over
New England (-11) at Miami; 47, Over
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
A little more than a month into the season, the AFC West race appeared to be a runaway. The Chiefs had won their first five games in impressive fashion, and they were clearly in control.
One of those victories came against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on the road and another win came against the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles.
While nobody was predicting the Chiefs would stay undefeated, a long slump was not in the cards, either. However, that's just what has happened, as the Chiefs have lost six of seven games and they find themselves tied with the Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers at 6-6.
Now that their lead has dissipated, can Andy Reid's team turn it back around as the season enters the final four games?
If they can't win this week at home, they will be looking up at the Raiders and possibly the Chargers.
Reid has to find a way to rally the team and get it to believe in itself once again. The offense showed signs of looking better in the Week 13 31-28 loss to the Jets when quarterback Alex Smith threw for 366 yards and four TDs.
Prior to that game, the Chiefs' offense appeared to be stuck in the mud, so that's a good sign. However, the Kansas City defense appears at least one step too slow most weeks, and Oakland quarterback Derek Carr should be able to take advantage.
He will have Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper back for this game, and the Raiders have the ability to score points in bunches.
The Chiefs are four-point favorites, but there are too many areas that are not functioning. Reid is having a difficult time figuring out how to right the ship, and the Raiders will get the win and move ahead of their rivals in the division standings.
WFAN Sports Radio @WFAN660
MUST LISTEN: Eli Manning tells Francesa benching felt like "part of me was kind of taken away." https://t.co/MqpNofYwND https://t.co/SulTMgoc282017-12-4 23:04:26
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The Cowboys finally figured out how to play a solid game and win without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott when they punished the Washington Redskins in Week 13.
They would seemingly have an easy assignment this week at MetLife Stadium against the lowly New York Giants, who have played brutal football in putting together a 2-10 record.
However, this game will be anything but typical or easy for the Cowboys. The Giants let second-year coach Ben McAdoo go this week after he unceremoniously benched Eli Manning prior to last week's game at Oakland.
That was not the only reason McAdoo got fired, but it crystallized his shortcomings as a head coach. The Giants may not beat the Cowboys this week, but they are likely to deliver an excellent effort against Dallas with Manning back under center.
The Cowboys get to compete against an awful New York defense that ranks 32nd in yards allowed, and that is exactly what Dak Prescott needs.
We also expect Manning and the New York offense to put on one of its best performances.
This game is likely to be a back-and-forth affair, and the 41.5-point total will be challenged. It would not be a surprise if the two teams combined for 30 points in the first half and cruised past the over before the end of the quarter.
This is a strong prediction to see the over come through.