Drew Brees can break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards tonight

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees signs caps for fans before his game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana November 6, 2011. REUTERS/Dan Anderson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Considering how much of an impact tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints will have on the NFC playoff picture, it’s easy to forget that Drew Brees is on the verge of breaking one of Dan Marino’s last major records.

If Brees throws for 305 yards, he’ll break Marino’s record for most passing yards in a single season. Marino accomplished the feat back in 1984 when he also broke the single-season record for most passing touchdowns with 48, which Peyton Manning broke in 2004 when he threw 49 touchdown passes.

If Brees plays as well tonight as he usually does versus Atlanta, then he should have no problem breaking the record in front of a primetime audience. He threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 26-23 victory over the Falcons in mid-November this year, and has thrown for at least 300 yards in four of his previous eight games against Atlanta. That said, he has never thrown for over 300 yards twice in one season versus the Falcons, who are determined not to be the team that allows him to break Marino’s record.

“We don’t want to be the team that he played against when he actually gets the record,” Falcons cornerback Kelvin Hayden said last week. “Mainly, you want to come out with the win, but secondarily we don’t want the record broken on us.”

Unfortunately for he and the Falcons, Hayden will likely watch tonight’s game from the sidelines as he continues to recover from a dislocated toe. But the team hopes to have top corner Brent Grimes back, which would be a huge coup for the Atlanta secondary. Grimes has missed the past three weeks with a knee injury and while he’s officially listed as questionable, he was able to practice this week (albeit on a limited basis).

Brees’ chase of Marino’s record is taking a backseat to the importance of tonight’s game as it pertains to the NFC playoff picture. The Saints are in a battle with the 49ers for the No. 2 seed behind the Packers, while the Falcons are jockeying for position with the Lions for the No. 5 spot. Atlanta could also still win the NFC South if it beats New Orleans and Tampa Bay in its final two games, and if the Saints lose to the Panthers this Sunday.

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2011 NFL Week 13 Odds & Point Spreads

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie celebrates a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the fourth quarter of the NFL NFC Championship football game in Chicago, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Four odds of note:

Colts –20.5 @ Patriots, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
I about fell over when I first saw the opening line for this game, which was actually New England –21. But the spread makes sense. First of all, the Colts haven’t covered in seven straight weeks so oddsmakers have to push the envelope to see what price bettors will be willing to pay in order to keep fading Indy. Secondly, New England is just two weeks removed from covering a 17-point spread against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, so oddsmakers realize that bettors are at least willing to lay that number when it comes to wagering on the Pats. But 20.5? For a NFL game? Dear, Barbara.

Falcons –1.5 @ Texans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
There’s an unwritten rule when it comes to wagering: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The Texans are starting T.J. Yates at quarterback against a Falcons team that has won two straight games and is chasing down a playoff berth in the NFC. Why wouldn’t you lay the 1.5 points on Atlanta? All they have to do is win, basically. That said, the Texans knew as soon as Matt Schaub went down for the season that no matter who was playing quarterback, their defense and running game would have to carry them. The Falcons have been inconsistent on offense all season and while their run defense has been stout, they will be tested by the Texans’ excellent rushing attack. Plus, Atlanta could be without two of its top three cornerbacks as Brent Grimes (knee) and Kelvin Hayden (toe) are both expected to miss this Sunday. Beware the trap.

Raiders +2.5 @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Speaking of traps, the 3-8 Dolphins are a 2.5-point favorite against the 7-4 Raiders who are battling the Broncos for the AFC West crown? Hello, Oakland and the points! Again, beware the bet that looks too good to be true. Miami’s defense has been a rock over the past couple of weeks and the Fish were one big play/stop away from beating the Cowboys last Thursday. Miami clearly hasn’t given up on the season despite its record and will probably enjoy playing the role of spoiler from here on out.

Chiefs +9 @ Bears, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Who is going to lay nearly 10 points on a Caleb Hanie-led Chicago team after his performance last Sunday in Oakland? The Chiefs failed to cover as a 17-point underdog two weeks ago in New England but they nearly came from behind and beat the Steelers last Sunday night. I think there’s going to be plenty of Kansas City backers come Sunday, so it’ll be interesting to see if the line moves, and by how much, come Sunday. The Bears are much tougher at home than they are on the road, plus they have Matt Forte, Devin Hester and a (usually) stingy defense. But Hanie radically changes what Mike Martz wants to do on offense and it’s tough envisioning them covering a 9-point spread.

2011 NFL Week 13 Point Spreads

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