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This week: Rivalries on the forefront of football
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This is a week of key divisional and region matchups in both pro and high school football.

Tonight, the Falcons take on longtime rival — and now divisional foe — New Orleans.

Atlanta (4-2) is coming off a 37-21 loss to Dallas last week while the Saints are fresh off a rallying 46-34 win against Miami.

The Saints, a team currently leading the NFC South division at 6-0, are averaging more than 39 points per game including four games where they’ve scored 45 points or better.

Atlanta’s offense isn’t nearly as potent, averaging a little more than 20 points per game while giving up 16. Atlanta stars John Abraham, Ovie Mughelli, Jonathan Babineaux and Jerious Norwood all remain questionable for tonight’s game against New Orleans.

Friday night marks the end of the regular season for area high school teams. Guaranteed playoff spots out of Region 7-AAA are Gainesville, North Hall and Flowery Branch.

Creekview needs only to beat Chestatee on Friday night to make its second-straight appearance in the Class AAA state playoffs.

The marquee matchup Friday night out of 7-AAA is Class AAA’s No. 1-ranked Gainesville at Flowery Branch. These two teams began the season ranked in the top 5 and even though Flowery Branch has dropped from favor while Gainesville has risen to No. 1, the matchup is still worth the hype.

The offenses are tops in the area with Flowery Branch averaging a little more than 451 yards per game while Gainesville averages 421.

Region 8-AA’s top teams, Jefferson and East Jackson, face off in Jefferson on Friday night with a region title on the line.

The two teams come in undefeated, tied atop the region and the Dragons are ranked No. 4 in Class AAA.

While this game has no bearing on the playoffs — both teams have already secured their berths — it should be a showdown on the way to the region championship.

In other key games Friday night, Riverside Military could lock up its second-straight state playoff berth with a win against Dawson County, and Chestatee, with a win against Creekview and a White County loss to Gilmer, could make the program’s third playoff appearance.

In pro sports action, the Thrashers and Hawks continue their seasons this week.

The Thrashers travel to Montreal for a game against the Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and then, at 7 p.m Thursday, play host to the Blue Jackets at Philips Arena.

As for the Hawks, who currently sit in a tie atop the Southeast Division standings with Orlando and Miami, they play at Portland, at Sacramento and at Charlotte before coming home to play host to Denver at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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