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saintz08 10-12-2005 10:55 PM

Saints - Falcons
Though they're only a game apart in the standings, these teams are headed in different directions. The Saints had a couple of emotional early wins, but they are coming off a 49-point drubbing by the Packers. They will look for some spark in San Antonio, their temporary home. The Falcons' losses have been by a combined six points. ...

The Saints lost workhorse running back Deuce McAllister to a knee injury. What do they do now? They weren't able to build a consistent offense, with McAllister averaging nearly four yards per carry. Now Antowain Smith must carry the running attack, but he is a power back and doesn't have McAllister's speed.

Quarterback Aaron Brooks threw seven interceptions in the team's three losses. Brooks is the symbol of the team's inconsistency and undisciplined play. He must raise his game to give his team a chance to be competitive. ...

Will Michael Vick play this week, and if he does will he be effective? Vick missed last week's loss to the Patriots, and his bum knee had him questionable early in the week. Backup Matt Schaub played well against the Pats, throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns. Vick gives the offense an unpredictable edge. Schaub appears comfortable in the passing attack and has the security of running backs T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn.

The defense also has a concern. How will it respond to the season-ending injury to middle linebacker Ed Hartwell? It must get production from pass-rushing ends Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith and linebackers Keith Brooking and Demorrio Williams, the team's leading tacklers. ...

Despite the obvious disparities, a Saints victory will put both teams at .500 and in the thick of the NFC South race.

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