Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Preview

Sunday's matchup against the Saints is poised to be a shootout. (Marc Serota)

Sunday’s matchup against the Saints is poised to be a shootout. (Marc Serota)

It’s a must-win game for the Atlanta Falcons as they head into New Orleans to take on the Saints this Sunday.

And there’s already been a bit of trash talk between the two bitter rivals.

Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis started the week off with this quotable: “Hopefully we come in this week and get to the details and try to figure out what Atlanta’s gonna try to beat us with. We can’t let Matt Ryan come out and throw for 500 yards this week. We’re definitely gonna give them their funeral.”

Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was placed on injured reserve in June, fired back via Twitter: “The ‘Aints are way too sorry to have our names in their mouth! Our team will be bringing a broom to the Bayou!”

Atlanta (5-9) won 37-34 in the Week 1 matchup after wide receiver Marques Colston fumbled in overtime and Matt Bryant kicked the game-winning 52-yard field goal. Matt Ryan threw for a career- and franchise-high 448 yards.

If the Falcons do win this matchup, it will be the first time they will have swept the Saints (6-8) since 2005.

Atlanta has lost its last two games, and the Saints are riding a four-game losing streak at home. It’s strange to see New Orleans in the midst of their home losing streak after they’ve played extremely well in home games since the arrival of Sean Payton in 2006.

If there’s a perfect opportunity for the Falcons, who are 2-5 on the road this season, to steal a victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it’s this time.

Atlanta’s primary hope of winning lies with the status of stud wide receiver Julio Jones, who has yet to practice this week. Jones suffered a hip injury in the Week 14 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. In two games before going down, Jones had accumulated 448 receiving yards in two games. He was clearly missed in the Falcons’ Week 15 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Saints are coming off a short week after going on the road to beat the Chicago Bears on Monday night. That could give the Falcons a slight advantage.

If Atlanta drops this game, their hopes of getting into the postseason will be finished. But if the Falcons manage to top the Saints this week and the Carolina Panthers in the final game of the season, they will stand with the Seattle Seahawks as the only teams to advance to the playoffs with a losing record.

The Falcons have had a tremendous amount of trouble against the Saints since Drew Brees and Payton came to New Orleans. I’m going to pick the Falcons to surprise and pull out a victory against the Saints. I’m admittedly not fully confident in the choice — and that confidence lowers if Jones is a scratch — but I like Atlanta’s offense better against a New Orleans team that has struggled at home this season in this should-be shootout.

Follow me on Twitter: @projectjax

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