Thursday December 18th, 2014

The New Orleans Saints (6-8) have lost four straight home games, yet they still find themselves in first place in the NFC South heading into Sunday’s key divisional matchup with the Atlanta Falcons (5-9). The Saints are consensus six-point home favorites against the Falcons but lost the first meeting between the teams in the season opener, 37-34 in overtime at Atlanta, as three-point road chalk.

New Orleans is coming off a 31-15 rout of the Chicago Bears on the road last week on Monday Night Football as a 3.5-point betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Saints saw the Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) win and the Falcons lose last Sunday to put them in position to take sole possession of first with a victory at Chicago, and that’s exactly what they did. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense picked off Bears QB Jay Cutler three times and sacked him seven times in the win.

Atlanta suffered a 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a three-point home underdog without star wide receiver Julio Jones, who missed the game due to a hip injury and is questionable to return against the Saints. Jones had seven receptions for 116 yards in the first meeting.

The Steelers (9-5) are still in the thick of the race for the AFC North title and host the Kansas City Chiefs (8-6), who are also hoping to stay in the playoff hunt with an upset victory on the road. The NFL Week 16 betting lines show Pittsburgh as a three-point favorite against Kansas City, and the home team is 0-3 against the spread in the past three meetings.

Another AFC matchup between two teams trying to make the postseason takes place in Houston, where the Texans (7-7) will face the visiting Baltimore Ravens (9-5). Houston remains in the running for one of the conference’s wild card spots despite losing 17-10 to the Indianapolis Colts last week as a seven-point road underdog. Baltimore is listed as a five-point road favorite and is currently battling the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) for the division crown. The Ravens have won seven of the past eight meetings according to the OddsShark NFL Database, and the Texans have lost nine of the last 10 times they have been home underdogs.

Another key Week 16 matchup on Sunday afternoon involves the Colts and the Dallas Cowboys, who are coming off a big 38-27 road win against the Philadelphia Eagles as 3.5-point underdogs on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are three-point favorites against Indianapolis and have won and covered the past two meetings after losing the previous three in the series. Dallas is just 1-7 ATS in its previous eight games as a home favorite and 3-7 vs. the line in its last 10 at home against AFC opponents.

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