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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Weekly Game Breakdowns - Week 14
Bob Cunningham
December 6, 2007

With four weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s time to re-examine both conferences and furnish some revised playoff predictions to cover the stretch drive.

In the AFC, New England will roll to the top seeding and take a perfect record into the postseason… yada, yada.  Yeah, I know the Patriots’ last two victories have been close calls, but the final two games on their schedule that appear challenging are this week against Pittsburgh at home and their finale against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.

The Steelers are only 2-3 on the road, so I can’t picture them going into Foxborough and doing the deed, and the Giants… well, they have the wrong Manning at QB to be taken seriously against the Pats.  But I reserve the right to change my mind after Week 16.

Anyway, after the Patriots will be Indianapolis, the Steelers and San Diego as division champs – in that order.  Jacksonville seems a lock for one wild-card berth – the Jaguars will be favored in three of their last four games -- and the other spot will come down to either Tennessee or Cleveland, both currently 7-5.  I prefer defense, which means I’d go with the Titans.  Oh, wait… do not count out Buffalo, which is 6-6 (to be 7-6 after this week).

Then again, it ultimately won’t matter when the Patriots win the conference and stroll into Super Bowl XLII.

Dallas is clearly the NFC front-runner after its victory over Green Bay last week.  And the Packers are pretty much set as the second seed.  After those two, things get murky.  Seattle and Tampa Bay should win the West and South Divisions, respectively, and I like the Seahawks to get the third seeding if for no other reason than they own the tiebreaker over the Bucs by beating them straight-up earlier this season.

The Giants lead the wild-card race, although a demanding schedule suggests they're no shoo-in for a spot.  Their home stretch culminates with that biggie against the Patriots - the G-Men better hope that's not a win-or-else showdown for them.  Meanwhile, there are seven other teams still realistically in the hunt.  Regardless of the Giants' fate, I give one playoff berth to Minnesota, which has a legitimate shot at ending up 9-7.  If the Giants do fade, New Orleans might put itself in position to take it especially if the Saints beat fellow contender Arizona in Week 16 at home as I suspect they will.

Detroit?  The Lions are safari kill.  In addition to losing four straight, Detroit has a brutal schedule down the stretch featuring this week’s home game with Dallas, as well as trips to San Diego and Green Bay sandwiched around a home game with Kansas City.  To have any real shot, the Lions need to upset the Cowboys Sunday or win at least one of those two difficult road assignments.  Good luck, guys.

After the wild-card and division playoffs play out, we’ll be stuck with another Green Bay at Dallas clash for the NFC crown.  The home team always wins when those two meet, so the Cowboys are the pick and will face New England in SBXLII.

Not much drama, huh?  Well, at least we can see whether an 8-8 team makes the field.  That’s always good for some laughs.

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  122-70 (64 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  89-93-9 (48 percent)
Last Week:  13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS

Here’s how I see Week 14: 


CHICAGO (5-7) at WASHINGTON (5-7)
Thursday, Dec. 6, 5 p.m. PT

Line:  Redskins favored by 3   

Strongest Trends:  The Redskins have won nine of the last 11 meetings straight-up, going 8-3 ATS.

Last Meeting:  Washington won at home, 9-7, in 2005.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago lost at home to the New York Giants on Sunday, 21-16.  The Bears are last in the NFC North but still very much in the hunt for a wild-card playoff berth.

Redskins Status Report:  Washington came from ahead to lose at home to Buffalo last week, 17-16.  The Redskins have lost four in a row and five of six, but are still in the playoff chase.

Fantasy Factors:  Probably a defensive tussle on the low-scoring side.  For Chicago, RB Adrian Peterson and WR Bernard Berrian are OK starts.  Ditto the defense/special teams, which should always be in your lineup because of Devin Hester’s kick return talents.  For Washington, QB Jason Campbell is a sleeper play along with WR Santana Moss.  TE Chris Cooley and RB Clinton Portis are decent starts.  I like the Redskins D/ST as well.

Game Summary:  A very close contest likely to be decided by a late turnover, or possibly another screw-up by Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.  Washington has two major distractions right now – Gibbs’ seeming incompetence (are you kidding me?  Even my 14-year-old son knew you can’t call consecutive timeouts) and the tragic death of Sean Taylor.  Chicago has been winning close road games, triumphing at Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Oakland this year.  Make this road win No. 4.

Prediction:  BEARS, 16-13


MIAMI (0-12) at BUFFALO (6-6)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bills favored by 7    

Strongest Trends:  The Bills are 6-1 SU, 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings.

Last Meeting:  Buffalo escaped from Miami with a 13-10 victory less than a month ago.

Dolphins Status Report:  Desperate for their first win, at home, and facing a 2-9 squad, the Dolphins nevertheless were trashed by the visiting New York Jets on Sunday, 40-13, and are now staring 0-16 squarely in the mug.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo rallied to edge Washington on the road, 17-16, and remains just a game out of the final wild-card slot in the AFC.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Jesse Chatman, if healthy, is the only realistic start on the Dolphins.  For Buffalo, start the starting RB – whether it’s Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson – as long as you can confirm Lynch’s status one way or the other.  I’d recommend ignoring the passing game, even with this seemingly favorable matchup.  The Bills defense/special teams are a great play this week.

Game Summary:  I picked the Jets over Miami last week, but was nervous about it.  I really thought the Dolphins would be inspired in such a winnable game, a rivalry game, in their bid to avoid the ultimate embarrassment.  But after their performance, I cut them no slack.  Buffalo has owned this series in recent years, and badly needs to avoid a stumble here.

Prediction:  BILLS, 24-7


ST. LOUIS (3-9) at CINCINNATI (4-8)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bengals favored by 4    

Strongest Trend:  The Rams have won the last two meetings, by 17 and 28 points.

Last Meeting:  The Rams won at home in 2003, 27-10.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis whipped visiting Atlanta a week ago, 28-16, for its third victory in four weeks.  The Rams are tied with San Francisco at the bottom of the NFC West.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati lost at Pittsburgh Sunday night, 24-10, and is tied with Baltimore at the bottom of the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  Unless the weather turns nasty – entirely possible in Ohio in December – there could be plenty of points to go around.  QB Marc Bulger’s status is not yet known – at this time last week he was pronounced as feeling good and likely to start.  But by Friday, he was out.  He did pass a neurological exam Tuesday, so with Gus Frerotte unavailable due to a shoulder injury, it’s either Bulger or oblivion (otherwise known as Brock Berlin) for the Rams passing attack.  RB Stephen Jackson and, to a lesser extent, WR Torry Holt are good starts, but be leery of anyone else.  For the Bengals, play all the key offensive people including RB Rudi Johnson, who seemed to run harder at Pittsburgh last week and is faced with a much more favorable matchup this time around.

Game Summary:  Although two of the Rams’ three wins this season are on the road, only one came outside on grass and that was an unimpressive 13-9 victory at San Francisco.  I consider the host Bengals considerable favorites here and expect their high-powered offense to win this one going away, especially if their defense plays as inspired as it was against the Steelers.

Prediction:  BENGALS, 31-14


SAN DIEGO (7-5) at TENNESSEE (7-5)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Even   

Strongest Trend:  The Chargers have won the last five meetings, going 4-1 ATS.

Last Meeting:  San Diego routed the visiting Titans a year ago September, 40-7.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego prevailed at Kansas City last week, 24-10, to seize a two-game lead over Denver in the AFC West.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee rallied to a 28-20 home win over Houston on Sunday.  The Titans are third in the AFC South, a game behind second-place Jacksonville and are currently tied for the final wild-card playoff berth.

Fantasy Factors:  Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson can go off at anytime, but he doesn’t figure to do too much of that in this one.   Start him, obviously, but temper expectations.  TE Antonio Gates, on the other hand, figures to bounce back with a huge game after getting only one reception last week.  WR Chris Chambers is a reach play.  For the Titans, RB Lendale White is banged up.  If he doesn’t start, Chris Brown is a nice sleeper start.  WR Justin Gage has been the favorite target of QB Vince Young lately, so riding the hot hand with both isn’t a bad idea.  Using either defense/special teams unit would be risky.

Game Summary:  This – a challenging game on the road – is just the kind of game San Diego has not done well in this season.  The Chargers are 0-3 against winning teams away from Qualcomm Stadium.  The Titans were slumping before snapping the skid with last week’s victory.  As the pick ‘em spread would indicate this one is a toss-up.  But I can’t and won’t go with San Diego until the Chargers prove they’re up to the task.

Prediction:  TITANS, 20-17


CAROLINA (5-7) at JACKSONVILLE (8-4)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Jaguars favored by 10½   

Strongest Trend:  The Panthers are 4-2 on the road straight-up this season.

Last Meeting:  Carolina won at home, 24-23, in 2003.

Panthers Status Report:  Carolina halted a five-game losing streak last week with a 31-14 home thumping of San Francisco.  The Panthers are tied for second with New Orleans in the NFC South, a game out of a wild-card berth.

Jaguars Status Report:  Jacksonville lost at Indianapolis on Sunday, 28-25, and is two games (effectively, three) behind the Colts in the AFC South.  The Jaguars lead the wild-card race.

Fantasy Factors:  Carolina’s previously stagnant offense showed life last week, but a road game against stingy Jacksonville doesn’t bode well.  WR Steve Smith is usually worth a shot, but otherwise the Panthers should be skipped.  For Jacksonville, the running game is again a go with Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.  And the defense/special teams are elite.

Game Summary:  The Panthers defense has played better of late, and Carolina has been a solid road team this season, reasons not known.  The Jaguars are expected to ground out a victory, so I’m thinking a lower-scoring contest which makes covering a double-figure spread a lot more difficult.  Jaguars are unlikely to stumble but I’m going with Carolina to keep things competitive.

Prediction:  JAGUARS, 24-17


TAMPA BAY (8-4) at HOUSTON (5-7)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Buccaneers favored by 3

Strongest Trend:  Tampa Bay won the only previous meeting that counted, but is 6-1 overall against the Texans including exhibition games.

Last Meeting:  The Bucs won at home, 16-3, in 2003.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay rallied past New Orleans on the road, 28-23, to take a three-game lead in the NFC South.

Texans Status Report:  Houston lost at Tennessee last week, 28-20, and is last in the AFC South.

Fantasy Factors:  QB Jeff Garcia is due to return and he makes a decent starter in this one for Tampa Bay.  Go with RB Earnest Graham and WR Joey Galloway as well.  For Houston, QB Matt Schaub is hurt – Sage Rosenfels starts in his place – but you’d bench either one anyway.  Only Andre Johnson is worth a serious look for the Texans, although both defenses are worth considering as well.

Game Summary:  The Buccaneers are on a roll, and while Houston certainly could pull the upset at home, I’m playing the momentum card here.

Prediction:   BUCCANEERS, 21-13


OAKLAND (4-8) at GREEN BAY (10-2)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Packers favored by 10½  

Strongest Trends:  Green Bay has won the last four meetings, going 3-1 ATS.

Last Meeting:  The Packers romped at Oakland in 2003, 41-7.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland is coming off a 34-20 home win over Denver, the Raiders second in a row within their division after losing 17 straight AFC West games.  Oakland is tied with Kansas City at the bottom of the division.

Packers Status Report:  Green Bay was beaten at Dallas last Thursday, 37-27, but the Packers remain four games up in the NFC North and can clinch the division with a victory, or losses by Detroit and Minnesota.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Justin Fargas has been the real deal since being promoted to featured guy ahead of Lamont Jordan.  He rates an every-week start.  I’d bench all other Raiders, however.  For the Pack, QB Brett Favre will not have his consecutive starts streak broken – you can start him and expect decent results.  RB Ryan Grant and WR Greg Jennings are also great starts, and WR Donald Driver and TE Donald Lee also make good plays.  I like Green Bay’s defense, too.

Game Summary:  Favre at home in December, on a good team with plenty still to gain.  Kudos to the Raiders for their two-game mini-streak but the Pack is the clear pick at home.

Prediction:  PACKERS, 27-14


NEW YORK GIANTS (8-4) at PHILADELPHIA (5-7)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Eagles favored by 3

Strongest Trends:  The Giants are 4-1 on the road, SU and ATS, compared to the Eagles’ 2-4 home mark.

Last Meeting:  The Giants won easily at home, 16-3, in Week 4.

Giants Status Report:  New York outlasted host Chicago on Sunday, 21-16.  The Giants lead the NFC wild-card race.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia lost at home to Seattle, 28-24, and is tied with Washington at the bottom of the NFC East.  Still, the Eagles are only one game out of a playoff berth.

Fantasy Factors:  Considering that I expect this game to be similar to last week’s Giants-Bears game, you can set your lineups accordingly.  RB Brandon Jacobs returns for the G-Men, but he’s only a medium start.  QB Eli Manning, his two primary WRs, and TE Jeremy Shockey are good to go.  For Philly, QB Donovan McNabb’s status is not yet known.  To play if safe, go with RB Brian Westbrook and maybe WR Kevin Curtis and/or TE L.J. Smith, and the let rest slide.  If McNabb is pronounced as ready to go, he’s a fair start.

Game Summary:  In my opinion, the odds-makers are giving us a gift when we can take an 8-4 team against a 5-7 team and get three points to boot.  The numbers suggest that home-field edge is the only advantage the Eagles carry into the contest.  It might be enough. I can envision an Eagles victory here, to be sure, but the numbers indicate a close win for the visitors.

Prediction:  GIANTS, 21-20


DALLAS (11-1) at DETROIT (6-6)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Cowboys favored by 11

Strongest Trend:  The Cowboys had covered ATS in four straight meetings before being stunned by the visiting Lions last season, 39-31.

Last Meeting:  See above.

Cowboys Status Report:  Dallas rolled to a 37-27 victory over visiting Green Bay last Thursday.  The Cowboys sport a three-game lead over the New York Giants in the NFC East.

Lions Status Report:  The Lions were mauled at Minnesota a week ago, 42-10, and have lost four straight.  They are tied for the final playoff berth in the NFC with Arizona and the Vikings.

Fantasy Factors:  There’s certainly reason to believe the Cowboys will put up plenty of points.  Play all the usual suspects.  For Detroit, I like QB Jon Kitna at home even though Roy Williams is out for the rest of the season.  That bumps up the value of wideouts Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald.  Forget the Detroit running game unless you believe the Lions have a shot at the upset.

Game Summary:  My gut instinct was that the Cowboys might be ripe for an upset here.  Detroit is desperate to get things turned around. Dallas has been resting and feeling all gooey about itself after conquering the Pack.  Complacency is a threat.  But on talent alone, the Cowboys should find a way to get it done even if Detroit does keep it fairly close with its opportunistic defense.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 31-27


MINNESOTA (6-6) at SAN FRANCISCO (3-9)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Vikings favored by 8½   

Strongest Trends:  The home team has won the last eight meetings, going 7-1 ATS in those games.

Last Meeting:  The 49ers prevailed at home, 9-3, last season.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota routed visiting Detroit on Sunday, 42-10, for its third straight victory.  The Vikings are tied with the Lions for second in the NFC North and tied for the final wild-card playoff spot.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco was hammered at Carolina last Sunday, 31-14, and is tied with St. Louis at the bottom of the NFC West.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Adrian Peterson came back strong a week ago and is an obvious start this week.  I still don’t think much of the Minnesota passing attack, however.  The Vikings defense/special teams are a strong play.  For San Francisco, RB Frank Gore will get plenty of work but expectations should be limited considering Minnesota’s run defense is tops in the league.  TE Vernon Davis is a sleeper play.  If you feel like gambling, go with San Francisco’s defense at home against a team it yielded only a single field goal to in a meeting last year.

Game Summary:  The numbers say Minnesota will keep its winning streak going, and make it four.  But the 49ers defense is usually pretty solid at home, yielding more than 24 points just once.  They keep it tight, and have an outside shot at the upset.

Prediction:  VIKINGS, 23-17


ARIZONA (6-6) at SEATTLE (8-4)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Seahawks favored by 7

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won seven of the last eight meetings, going 6-2 ATS.

Last Meeting:  The Cardinals edged the visiting Seahawks, 23-20, in Week 2.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona beat Cleveland at home Sunday, 27-21.  The Cardinals are two games back of Seattle in the NFC West and tied for the final wild-card playoff berth.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle outlasted host Philadelphia on Sunday, 28-24.  The Seahawks would clinch the NFC West title with a victory.

Fantasy Factors:  The Cardinals offense has been clicking, but WR Anquan Boldin is out and fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald missed last week with a groin strain.  Plus factor in that the Seahawks are usually fairly stingy at home, and the conclusion is that it’s probably a good idea to bench your Cardinals.  For Seattle, QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander are good starts.  Maurice Morris will continue to see some action, but his status has obviously declined with Alexander’s return.  WR Deion Branch is a good start and other WRs like Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson are also worth considering.  D.J. Hackett remains out.  As indicated, the Seahawks defense is a decent start at home.

Game Summary:  The Seahawks just don’t lose often at home, only getting beat once there this season (by New Orleans).  With the division crown there for the taking, and with Arizona’s assorted ailments, it’s a pretty easy call to take the hosts.

Prediction:  SEAHAWKS, 34-21


PITTSBURGH (9-3) at NEW ENGLAND (12-0)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:   Patriots favored by 10½

Strongest Trends:  The Patriots have won five of the last six meetings.  The underdog is 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Patriots edged the Steelers at Pittsburgh, 23-20, in 2005.

Steelers Status Report:  Pittsburgh beat visiting Cincinnati Sunday night, 24-10.  The Steelers have a two-game lead in the AFC North.

Patriots Status Report:  For the second week in a row, New England endured a close call but came away with a victory, 27-24 at Baltimore Monday night.  The Patriots are one victory and one Colts loss from clinching homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
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Fantasy Factors:  The Patriots defense has been exposed some the last two weeks, and although I expect renewed excellence from them this week, you shouldn’t be hesitant to have QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker and WR Hines Ward in your lineup.  TE Heath Miller is also a good start.  Although the Steelers defense is elite, this is one time when you bench an elite player/team.  Sit the Steelers.  For New England, it’s business as usual even with the high-caliber opponent.  You can’t afford to over-think things – the Patriots are still an unbeaten football team that continues to score plenty of points.

Game Summary:  I have no doubt that Pittsburgh will be ready.  And if you’ve followed my prognostications all season, you undoubtedly know that my ATS record in Patriots games, I believe, now stands at 1-11.  So here’s the skinny – my numbers indicate the Patriots will prevail by about 14 points.  The line is 10.  You make the call.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 31-20


CLEVELAND (7-5) at NEW YORK JETS (3-9)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Browns favored by 4    

Strongest Trend:  None of note.

Last Meeting:  The Browns won at home, 20-13, last season.

Browns Status Report:  Cleveland lost at Arizona on Sunday, 27-21.  The Browns are second in the AFC North, two games behind Pittsburgh, and are tied with Tennessee for the final AFC playoff berth.

Jets Status Report:  New York routed host Miami last Sunday, 40-13, for its second victory in three weeks.

Fantasy Factors:  The Browns’ primary offensive weapons are sound starts, although I caution you now of my prediction below.  For New York, RB Thomas Jones makes a great play this week.  Utilize the Jets passing attack at your own discretion, and avoid both defenses.

Game Summary:  Upset Special time.  The Jets have built a little momentum for themselves, and I’ve maintained for most of the season that they weren’t as bad as their record indicated.  This is a team that made the playoffs last season.  Cleveland concerns me on defense enough that I feel a major stumble down the stretch is a possibility.  This game will say a lot.  If the Browns win big, as the numbers say they should, they will prove themselves to be resilient contenders instead of pretenders.  If my upset pick comes to fruition, the Browns probably end up missing the playoffs altogether.

Prediction:  JETS, 24-21


KANSAS CITY (4-8) at DENVER (5-7)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Broncos favored by 6½  

Strongest Trend:  The home team had won 11 straight meetings before Denver’s victory at Kansas City earlier this season.

Last Meeting:  The Broncos won at KC, 27-11, less than a month ago.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City’s 24-10 home loss to San Diego was its fifth in a row. The Chiefs are tied with Oakland in the AFC West cellar.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver was beaten at Oakland last week, 34-20, and has fallen two games behind San Diego in the AFC West.

Fantasy Factors:  The Chiefs offense is going the wrong direction.  Skip the QB situation – try RB Kolby Smith, WR Dwayne Bowe (only in deeper leagues) and of course, TE Tony Gonzalez.  For Denver, RB Travis Henry is a happy camper after having his drug-related suspension overturned.  Look for an inspired effort from him this week.  QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall are OK starts.  Avoid the defenses.

Game Summary:  Broncos will win because they’re at home, but rivalry aspect is enough to keep things tight.

Prediction:  BRONCOS, 27-24


INDIANAPOLIS (10-2) at BALTIMORE (4-8)
Sunday, Dec. 9, 5:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Colts favored by 9½    

Strongest Trend:  The Colts have won the last four meetings, including the last two at Baltimore.

Last Meeting:  Indianapolis defeated host Baltimore, 15-6, in last season’s AFC divisional playoffs.

Colts Status Report:  Indy held off visiting Jacksonville on Sunday, 28-25, to take a two-game lead in the AFC South.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore almost stunned unbeaten New England on Monday night but eventually lost to the visiting Patriots, 27-24.  The Ravens remain in a last-place tie with Cincinnati in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  The matchup is tough, but Colts regulars Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have to be in your lineup.  I like the Colts defense/special teams as well even without injured sack specialist Dwight Freeney.  The Ravens will again give RB Willis McGahee plenty of work.  Start him, along with WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap if Heap ever actually returns – check his status.  The Ravens defense would be a risky start at best.

Game Summary:  A lot depends on the mood of the Ravens.  Will they look at last week’s loss to the Patriots and build on the numerous positives of almost knocking off an unbeaten team?  Or will they be disheartened by the loss and throw in the towel?  Tough call.  My numbers indicate a double-digit Indy win, so that’s my reluctant vote.

Prediction:  COLTS, 24-13


NEW ORLEANS (5-7) at ATLANTA (3-9)
Monday, Dec. 10, 5:30 p.m. PT

Line:  Saints favored by 4½

Strongest Trends:  New Orleans has won the last three meetings, and is 5-2 ATS in the last seven.

Last Meeting:  The Saints won at home, 22-16, in October.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans let a crucial contest get away last week, losing at home to Tampa Bay, 28-23, after seemingly having the game in hand in the last minute.  The Saints now trail the Bucs by three games in the NFC South, but are just one game out of a wild-card playoff slot.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta lost at St. Louis, 28-16, and is last in the NFC South.

Fantasy Factors:  The Saints attack should be fine – start QB Drew Brees and WR Marques Colston.  RB Reggie Bush is no longer an automatic start, but I’d probably give him a shot this week.  For Atlanta, RB Warrick Dunn and WR Roddy White are worthwhile, and RB Jerious Norwood is a serious sleeper… but that’s pretty much it.  Okay, go ahead with TE Alge Crumpler – but only if the alternative is an open roster spot.  Skip both defenses.

Game Summary:  New Orleans is a tough team to figure out, but on talent alone the Saints should take care of business against the punchless Falcons.  That might be a reason to pick an upset, but I just don’t see New Orleans squandering a still-legitimate shot at the playoffs.

Prediction:  SAINTS, 28-20

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