Rarely does a Week 10 matchup featuring an undefeated squad versus a 3-5 ball club constitute as "must-see TV." Yet, for a multitude of expositions, the New Orleans Saints are not your average 3-5 team. In a sense, the same could be said for the unblemished record of the Atlanta Falcons. This NFC South soiree serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
The lingering and persistent bounty scandal cast a morose and ominous ambience over the New Orleans franchise before the 2012 campaign began, so four consecutive losses out of the gate seemed to be enough evidence for many in the pigskin world to write off playoff aspirations for the Saints.
The vaunted high-octane offense was still lighting up the scoreboard, yet a defense once known for its opportunistic mentality was displaying a hesitant and tentative temperament, correlating to lowly adversaries like Washington, Carolina and Kansas City coming out on top. Entering October without a win seemed to guarantee the Saints would be sitting at home come January.
However, New Orleans would not go quietly into the night, as Drew Brees guided his crew to three wins in their next four outings, tossing 12 touchdowns in this time span to put the team back into postseason discussion. Yes, the defense is still one of the more susceptible units in the league, yet they've also contributed to the cause, evidenced by housing a 99-yard touchdown and holding the Eagles to 13 points in a Week 9 victory.
Though their upcoming schedule will be a strenuous endeavor (two dates with the Falcons, as well as engagements with the 49ers and Giants), the Saints appear to be regaining their swagger and are once again a team no one wants to tango with.
That includes the Falcons, who travel to the Big Easy as the last undefeated team in the NFL. Led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, who is averaging a career-best 295 yards per contest, Atlanta's new up-tempo attack is posting 27.5 points per game, fourth-best in the conference.
The dexterous duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones account for the best one-two receiver punch in the game, and the venerable Tony Gonzalez continues to battle Father Time, as the tight end has hauled in 50 catches for nearly 500 yards this year.
Moreover, after a forgettable start to the season, Michael Turner has proven there is still gas left in the tank, submitting 74 yards per outing in the last six games. Supported by a defense that is one of only five teams holding opponents to under 18 points per game, the Falcons may be the most complete lineup in the league.
Nevertheless, the team doesn't appear to have the same formidable aura of a juggernaut at this juncture of the season, nor are they receiving the same accolades as the other Super Bowl candidates like the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. The catalyst for this cold shoulder is the playoff success, or lack thereof, of the franchise under the regime of Mike Smith, with the organization 0-3 in the past four years. Until the team notches a W in January, expect the overlooks to endure.
So who emerges victorious in this skirmish in the Superdome? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com football simulation engine, the Falcons come out on top 69.6 percent of the time by an average margin of 29-23. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
|NFL Week 10|
|St. Louis Rams||25.3||17||Boxscore|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||74.7||26||Rams" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|Kansas City Chiefs||28.0||21||Boxscore|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||72.0||28||Chiefs" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ New England Patriots||69.1||28||Patriots&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Buffalo+Bills" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||68.5||27||Raiders" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Miami Dolphins||60.2||21||Titans" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||44.0||17||Boxscore|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||56.0||20||Seahawks&vSeason=2012&vTeam=New+York+Jets" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|San Diego Chargers||44.2||20||Boxscore|
|@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||55.8||23||Buccaneers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=San+Diego+Chargers" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Chicago Bears||53.1||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Jacksonville Jaguars||41.2||17||Colts" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Minnesota Vikings||38.9||23||Vikings&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Detroit+Lions" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||38.7||19||Cowboys" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
|New York Giants||67.9||27||Boxscore|
|@ Cincinnati Bengals||32.1||21||Simulate Game|
|@ New Orleans Saints||30.4||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Carolina Panthers||29.0||21||Panthers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Denver+Broncos" target="_blank">Simulate Game|
Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2012 NFL season.
Check out our 2012 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.