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Will New Orleans take care of the ball? Will Vick run?

Posted: Monday December 12, 2005 2:16PM; Updated: Monday December 19, 2005 4:10PM
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Aaron Brooks' 17 interceptions rank second in the NFL behind Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's 22 picks.
Aaron Brooks' 17 interceptions rank second in the NFL behind Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre's 22 picks.
Chris Graythern/Getty Images
Perloff's Primetime Picks
Week Prediction Outcome
1 N.E. 27, Oak. 24 N.E. wins, 30-20
1 Atl. 23, Phi. 20 Atl. wins, 14-10
2 N.O. 24, NYG 21 NYG win, 27-10
2 Dal. 23, Wash. 19 Wash. wins, 14-13
3 Den. 31, K.C. 28 Den. wins, 30-10
4 G.B. 28, Car. 24 Car. wins, 32-29
5 Pit. 30, S.D. 21 Pit. wins, 24-22
6 Ind. 42, StL. 21 Ind. wins, 38-20
7 Atl. 31, NYJ. 16 Atl. wins, 27-14
8 Pit. 34, Bal. 13 Pit. wins, 20-19
9 Ind. 31, N.E. 27 Ind. wins, 40-21
10 Phi. 27, Dal. 21 Dal. wins, 21-20
11 G.B. 30, Min. 20 Min. wins, 20-17
12 Pit. 29, Ind. 24 Ind. wins, 26-7
13 Sea. 23, Phi. 19 Sea. wins, 42-0
Perloff's MNF Record: 9-6

Monday Night Football is ending its 35 years on ABC with a whimper instead of a bang. This is the first of three bad Monday-night matchups to end the season. At least this game has Michael Vick, although you never know what you're going to get from the Atlanta quarterback.

The Falcons' bizarre 34-31 Week 5 win over the Saints was the beginning of the end for New Orleans. The Saints entered that game 2-3 and seemed to have a good shot at getting the win. They outgained Atlanta in total offense, 456 yards to 266, yet headed into the final minute tied. When Falcons kicker Todd Peterson missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, the Saints thought they were heading to overtime, but the refs called a "pull-and-shoot" penalty on New Orleans' Tony Bryant and Peterson hit the ensuing 36-yarder to clinch it.

The Saints lost a lot of their fight after that game, but they're always a pain in the neck to their divisional foes late in the season and will likely play hard tonight.

The Saints Win If ...

They don't turn the ball over. New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks has thrown 17 interceptions, compared to just 12 touchdowns. He had a very nice game against the Falcons in Week 5, completing 22 of 33 passes for 259 yards, two TDs and one interception. But the wheels have fallen off his season since then. Last week, he threw four interceptions and no TDs in a 10-3 loss to the Bucs.

New Orleans' offensive line pushed around the Falcons defenders in the last contest. The Saints ran for 211 yards against Atlanta, whose run defense has been inconsistenteason. New Orleans center LeCharles Bentley will dominate any one-on-one situation and the Saints will run behind him all night.

Last week, Vick stayed in the pocket all game and was sacked five times by the Bucs. With talented defensive end Will Smith leading the way, the Saints can generate a decent pass rush and should get to Vick if he stays in one place.

The Falcons Win If ...

Vick has success running. Not to get into the whole pocket-quarterback debate, but the Falcons are 5-0 when Vick runs for more than 50 yards and 2-5 when he doesn't. Atlanta offensive coordinator Greg Knapp points out that game situations have forced Vick to throw more of late. Even if Vick's accuracy has improved, I don't feel comfortable when he puts the ball in the air.

Beside, the Falcons are No. 1 in the league in rushing, with 177.8 yards per game. Although they're never sure what you're going to get from Vick on the ground, running backs T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn have been remarkably consistent. Dunn has run for more than 75 yards in 11 of 12 games this season, and the Saints have little chance of stopping the speedy Falcons back.

Michael Vick has thrown the ball 30 times or more in four of the last five games.
Michael Vick has thrown the ball 30 times or more in four of the last five games.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Atlanta's defense has been decimated by injuries, especially up front, and it might have trouble shutting down a mediocre New Orleans running game. The Falcons need a big game out of cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who will look to add to his five picks on the season.

Key Stat

In 40 years, the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons. That streak might continue if Atlanta falls tonight. To close out the season, the Falcons travel to Chicago and Tampa Bay and have a home game against Carolina.

The Outcome

Yes, the Saints are awful. But their offensive line should push around the Falcons' D-line. And New Orleans didn't have wide receiver Joe Horn in the first matchup against Atlanta. But in the end, Brooks will find a creative way to lose this game and Vick will run for 75 important yards. Expect the Saints to once again outgain the Falcons but lose the game in the end.

Atlanta 28, New Orleans 27