The New Orleans Saints fly to Atlanta where they will face the Falcons for the second of their annual two division meetings. In the first meeting, Mike Smith and the Falcons put their modesty aside and unveiled their overconfident side at the Mercedes-Benz Dome, with Roddy White and others allegedly confronting Curtis Lofton during warm-ups and heckling him. That pre-game episode was enough to ignite the fire in Drew Brees and the rest of his Saints. After dusting off the interception on their first drive of the game (That was followed by more boasting by Asante Samuel), the Saints proceeded to giving Atlanta a good ole’ fashion spanking. It was a narrow victory, but many expected the Falcons offense to glide all over a Saints defense that played out of position so much you would think they were on rollerblades. Mike Smith exited New Orleans with his first loss of the season while the defense left with a mouth-full of ‘humble pie’ that was force-fed by Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram. Atlanta should come in the Georgia Dome inspired with a different attitude, looking to clinch a playoff spot and possibly home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It should be an exciting game played in front of a loud environment, with one of Blogging Dirty’s own Greg Huseth in attendance.
Match-ups to watch
Falcons Wide Receivers vs. Saints Secondary- White has historically put up good stats against New Orleans, but Julio? Julio is a different kind of beast. In my opinion, he’s the Adrian Peterson of receivers. Fast, physical, and doesn’t give up on a play. Couple that with his excellent hands, vertical, and route running skills, and you have the recipe for a match-up nightmare. He was off to a good start in the first game until he went down with a leg injury in the first quarter. His game against the Bucs showed me that he’s back to full strength, which isn’t good news for Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson. Tony G. is a TE with the finesse of a receiver, which is why his career stats are better than some HOF wideouts. He shows up every week, and I’m sure Matt Ryan will look for him on third-downs. He played an excellent game against them the first match, Falcon fans certainly hope he shows up again.
Falcons Running Backs vs. Saints Linebackers- I think Quizz deserves a few more carries after his performance in Tampa, which could also warrant a change in strategy in how we run the ball. Smitty has always been a fan of the power running game, or running ‘up the gut’ but Turner tip-toes to much and our O-line isn’t dominant inside the tackles. We may have to attack the outsides with Jacquizz. I haven’t seen the pitch play be that effective in a long time. Dirk could probably throw a few sweeps in there also. Quizz has the acceleration to get to the outside before the defenders do, and if the O-line can set before he turns up field, he could do a lot of damage going up the sidelines. Snelling may get a few snaps at FB, but Dirk may let him run up the gut on those third-and-one situations. Who knows if Turner will show up or not? There’s one thing for certain with Turner, and that is Mike Smith will give him his carries.
Saints Running Backs vs. Falcons Defense- Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram gave Atlanta a pounding in the first game. Hopefully Sean Weatherspoon and the rest of D-Block will be ready to tackle this game.
Players to watch
Matt Ryan- Put up his statistical-best performance in a losing effort against New Orleans…He will want a different outcome on his home turf. He prides himself on ‘mistake-free” quarterbacking, which is good. The Falcons will need him at his best if they are to have a chance.
Julio Jones- They need him this game, and luckily he’s at 100 percent. He will be the difference maker this game. May put up stats similar to his Tampa Bay performance, but even if he doesn’t, the Saints defense must account for him on every play, which in turn could open up opportunities for the rest of the receivers.
Sean Weatherspoon- He was sorely missed, now he’s back to lead D-Block. I wonder how the defense will play compared to the sloppy showing in New Orleans? The defense certainly played their best football at Tampa Bay, and Falcon fans are hoping D-Block’s play will roll over into Thursday Night. Mike Smith will need them to show up, and I’m sure Weatherspoon will be ready to lead them.
The Saints in Every Defensive Category- 28th in points allowed, 32nd in total yards allowed, 30th in passing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing yards allowed… The Falcons need to take advantage of that weak run defense. The more notable stat is Falcons losing 11 or their last 13 against the Saints. ESPN stats also posted another gem regarding the Falcons run game…Even though Turner is the heavier back, Jacquizz is averaging more yards after contact than “The Burner”. Turner’s average is at 1.6 while Quizz’s 2.1. Jacquizz is also averaging more yards running between the tackles at 3.5 ypc compared to Turner’s 3.1. In other words, give Quizz more carries.
Asante Samuel is questionable. He played well Sunday, but reaggrivated his shoulder on Josh Freeman’s Hail Mary attempt. He didn’t practice on Wednesday while Dunta Robinson was also limited with a head injury…We desperately need both CB’s this game. I’m sure Brees will be tuned into ESPN until game-time, hoping Samuel’s name will scroll across the injury ticker. If Samuel happens to be out, our pass defense may be in big trouble. Darren Sproles is back for the Saints, and Brees will look to get him going underneath. I’m sure the Saints have missed the explosive element he brings in the back field.
I’m sure Joe Vitt plans to used a balanced attack this game, it worked for them in New Orleans. The Saints will look to get Sproles, Ingram, and the headache-inducing Ivory involved. If the happens, Atlanta will be in deep trouble. Drew Brees loves shootouts, while Matt Ryan likes to control the clock. Not saying that the Falcons offense can’t keep up with them, but shootouts isn’t Atlanta’s style. Defense will need to tackle well like they did in Tampa to give their team the best chance. Mike Nolan has done well keeping teams out of the endzone, and I doubt Nolan will struggle against Drew Brees twice. He won’t shutdown Drew, but hopefully he gameplanned good enough to slow him down enough to where we could get the lead and KEEP it. Mike Smith should do his best Al Pacino impersonation from Any Given Sunday, this team needs to be inspired to PLAY inspired. They should also come on to the field with a somewhat humble attitude…They should be focused on defeating their opponents, leave some of the verbal abuse to the fans. The Falcons need to start building momentum heading into the playoffs, this game along with their match up against the Giants are the most important remaining games. They should start by getting ‘over the hump’ against the Saints on a National Stage. Everyone will be watching. With all of that being said, I think the Falcons will put on a show and come out with a win.