Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Preview

The Atlanta Falcons are putting their undefeated streak on the line as they go on to road to face the New Orleans Saints.

Although the Falcons are 8-0, many are reluctant to crown the Falcons as the best team in the league. The Falcons’ “cupcake” schedule is the primary source for the detractors. As it stands now, they’ve played just one game against a team with a winning record: the 5-3 Denver Broncos.

Beating the Saints probably won’t do much to change anyone’s minds about the Falcons: New Orleans currently holds a 3-5 record. On the other hand, a win for the Saints would give them a 3-1 record in their last four games, and the Falcons would fall even more out of favor with pundits.

The defending NFC South champions have had a rough season. There was the whole Bountygate scandal, and consequently, the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for the year. The Saints started the season 0-4, and history tells us only one team has made the postseason after such a start: the San Diego Chargers in 1991.

New Orleans needs this game, but it could be tough with the league’s worst-ranked defense. The Saints give up 471.2 yards per game. For perspective, the team ranked one spot ahead at 31 is the Buffalo Bills, and they give up 417.9 yards per game – that’s a difference of over 50 yards per game.

From the looks of it, Matt Ryan could put up career numbers against this defense. Last Sunday night, Ryan carved up a Dallas Cowboys passing defense that was ranked third in the league to the tune of  342 yards on 24/34 passing. On the season, Ryan is 206/290 for 2,360 yards, 17 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He should be able to boost his MVP campaign this Sunday.

Combine the Saints’ inability to play defense with the stellar play of Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, and Roddy White, and you’ve got a recipe for a high-scoring affair.

When the Falcons visited the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last season, they were routed 45-16, and Drew Brees broke the record for most passing yards in a season. You’ll never hear it from Falcons head coach Mike Smith, but he nor the players were pleased with how New Orleans went about breaking the record. The Saints kept passing with the game well in hand, and the action was stopped so Brees could be congratulated. There’s no doubt the Falcons will be looking for a little payback.

Atlanta has lost three straight to the Saints in New Orleans. For his career, Ryan is 2-5 versus the Saints overall.

I haven’t tinkered with the predictions I made in the offseason, but I’m going to change this one: I think the Falcons get the victory in New Orleans. The Saints defense is atrocious and ripe for the Atlanta’s offense to put up some big numbers with a victory.

Numbers Comparison

Atlanta Falcons:

Points Scored: 27.5 (7th)
Total Offense: 376.6 (8th)
Passing Offense: 278.1 (8th)
Rushing Offense: 98.5 (25th)

Points Allowed: 17.9 (5th)
Total Defense: 356.2 (19th)
Passing Defense: 228.8 (14th)
Rushing Defense: 127.5 (24th)

New Orleans Saints:

Points Scored: 27.2 (8th)
Total Offense: 386.4 (5th)
Passing Offense: 305.4 (2nd)
Rushing Offense: 81.0 (30th)

Points Allowed: 28.6 (29th)
Total Defense: 471.2 (32nd)
Passing Defense: 294.8 (29th)
Rushing Defense: 176.5 (32nd)

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