NFL Gridiron Guide: Take the Saints on Week 12 Thursday Night Football

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks to pass during the first half of a game against the Jets. (Nov. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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John Boell Newsday sports writer John Boell

Boell has worked in the Newsday sports department in various capacities since 1999. In 2010, he became Newsday's

SAINTS (8-2) at FALCONS (2-8), 8:25 p.m.

Line: Saints by 7.5; O/U: 53

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TV: NFL Network

It's amazing how quickly things can change in the NFL.

Teams can look like a Super Bowl contender one week, and a cellar dweller the next.

Look no further than exhibits A & B: New Orleans and Atlanta.

Was it only a year ago that the Saints missed the playoffs after a 7-9 season and were without coach Sean Payton, who was suspended because of the Bountygate scandal? Weren't the Falcons supposed to be a Super Bowl contender this season after losing by four points to the 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game?

Circumstances have changed pretty fast for both clubs. A quick look at the teams' records will tell you that.

Atlanta was 13-2 overall at home from Nov. 20, 2011, through this Sept. 15. However, the decimated Falcons are 1-3 overall and against the spread (ATS) in their last four home games since. Atlanta is 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 NFC South contests.

The Saints -- 9-3-1 ATS in their last 13 games as a favorite of eight or fewer points -- are 8-4 ATS in their last 12 NFC South matchups. Maybe New Orleans looks ahead to next Monday night's key game at Seattle (which could decide the NFC's No. 1 seed). But I can't back the Falcons, even at home.

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