Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints Preview

In Week 11, the New Orleans Saints ended the Atlanta Falcons’ undefeated run.

The Falcons look to avenge their only loss when they host the Saints in the Georgia Dome on Thursday Night Football.

Matt Ryan’s seemingly invulnerability at home is well-documented. Although he boasts a 31-4 record when playing on his home turf, two of those four losses have come at the hands of the Saints.

In the last match-up with the Saints in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons lost in overtime 26-23 after head coach Mike Smith made a controversial decision to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory.

In the Week 11 game against New Orleans, Ryan threw for a career-high 411 yards. However, Atlanta were woefully inept on the ground, mustering just 46 rushing yards against one of the league’s worst-ranked run defenses.

Since then, the Falcons have incorporated backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers more into the offense. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was Rodgers and not Michael Turner who was on the field in crucial situations.

Rodgers being a threat as a receiving option out of the backfield and his ability to change direction quickly makes it mandatory for him to receive more touches than Turner. Ultimately, Rodgers is a better fit for the Falcons offense.

The Saints were hot until they ran into the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. However, because the wild card leaders all lost as well, New Orleans still has a shot to get into the playoffs.

It is imperative they beat the Falcons on Thursday in order to stay alive. A loss would mean the Saints would need to start looking at help from other teams.

For Atlanta, the game plan remains largely the same: pass, pass, pass. The Falcons’ trio of receivers – Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, and Roddy White – are difficult to slow down.

On the other side, it’s nigh-impossible to stop Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense. With Sean Weatherspoon back in the lineup for the Falcons, they should be able to do a better job containing the Saints’ rushing attack than they did the last time around.

A win for the Falcons all but ensures the NFC South crown and makes home-field advantage throughout the playoffs that much more probable.

If the Falcons do emerge victorious on Thursday night, it’ll be the first win after dropping four straight to the Saints.

I think playing a short week at home works in the Falcons’ favor.

Numbers Comparison

Atlanta Falcons:

Points Scored: 26.7 (8th)
Total Offense: 385.9 (6th)
Passing Offense: 297.6 (2nd)
Rushing Offense: 88.3 (28th)

Points Allowed: 19.6 (6th)
Total Defense: 344.9 (14th)
Passing Defense: 221.7 (13th)
Rushing Defense: 123.2 (22nd)

New Orleans Saints:

Points Scored: 28.0 (5th)
Total Offense: 381.9 (8th)
Passing Offense: 290.5 (5th)
Rushing Offense: 91.5 (27th)

Points Allowed: 27.6 (28th)
Total Defense: 454.8 (32nd)
Passing Defense: 298.3 (30th)
Rushing Defense: 156.5 (32nd)

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