New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: Thursday Night NFL on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 08/12/17 5:47am
Two of the NFL's best offenses go toe to toe to kick-off Week 14 in the NFL, as the Atlanta Falcons host the New Orleans Saints in an NFC South showdown on Thursday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Action from 12.30am.
At 9-3, the Saints are currently in prime position in the NFC South, with the Falcons sitting two games back at 7-5, following a disappointing defeat to the Vikings last week.
However, a home win on Thursday night could cause a major shake-up in the NFC playoff picture...
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So much to play for in the NFC South with the division itself as well as Wild Card playoff spots on the line as the Saints face the Falcons in Atlanta.
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The Saints are hopeful of having cornerback Marshon Lattimore back for Thursday night. The rookie star was held out of the Week 13 win over the Carolina Panthers, to allow him an extra week to recover from the ankle injury picked up two weeks prior.
The Falcons, meanwhile, will be without guard Andy Levitre for the game - the first time he will miss a start in his nine-year NFL career, breaking a streak of 140 consecutive games since entering the league with the Buffalo Bills in 2009. A triceps injury, sustained in the first quarter of their loss to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, keeps Levitre out.
Last week's 14-9 loss to the Vikings was the first time the Falcons did not score a touchdown in a game since they were shut out 38-0 in Week 14 of the 2015 season against the Panthers.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan likes facing New Orleans. In six starts against the Saints since 2014, he has completed 70.7 per cent of his passes, throwing for 328.3 yards per game, with 14 touchdowns to only one interception.
Key to this game will be what Julio Jones turns up? A week on from racking up 253 yards against the Buccaneers, Jones had only two receptions for 24 yards against the Vikings. But, he is normally one to bounce back just as quickly - in his last 10 outings following a sub 50-yard game, Jones averages 117.6 yards, and has notched seven TDs.
It's therefore vital for the Saints that they have Lattimore back to keep Jones quiet. Ignoring their two opening losses of the season, without the rookie corner, the Saints have seen their points per game allowed increase from 14.3 to 26, while their passing yards per game allowed has also nearly doubled - 148 to 264.7.
Alvin Kamara. Given his form of late, it simply has to be the Saints rookie runner. Kamara has put together five straight games of at least 100 scrimmage yards - the longest streak for a New Orleans back since Deuce McAllister in 2003 (nine) - and has a touchdown in each of his last six. The explosive Kamara is also averaging more than 1.5 yards per rush better than any other running back in the league, with his seven per carry.
Watch the New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Action from 12.30am on Friday.