Welcome to what is the first of hopefully many Mailbag Mondays!
This week we had some interesting questions that touched on the New Orleans Saints vs. the Atlanta Falcons and Steve Sarkisian.
No. 1: Who do you think is going to have the better season the New Orleans Saints or our Atlanta Falcons?
Last year the Atlanta Falcons obviously took a step back. The loss of Kyle Shanahan is the most identifiable reason for the difference between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Also, there were other, smaller factors such as the addition of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and the possible hangover from losing the 2016 Super Bowl.
Last year, the New Orleans Saints coalesced around a supremely talented backfield featuring rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and reliable runner Mark Ingram. Additionally, quarterback Drew Bress was able to cut down on his turnovers (15 interceptions in 2016 to 8 in 2017).
Going into 2018, the NFC South is tighter than ever as three teams have the chance to make the playoffs.
That said, I believe the Atlanta Falcons will ultimately win the division and push the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles for either the first or second seed in the NFC.
The reasoning behind my thoughts is simple. First, this will be the Falcons second year in Steve Sarkisian’s offense. While Sarkisian may not be the best play caller in the NFL, having a team that is well versed in their offense is almost a requirement for winning the Super Bowl.
Second, the New Orleans Saints are being led by a quarterback who threw for under 300 yards per game for the first time in six years. Brees is getting up there in age, and while he is still a tier-1 quarterback, the Saints switching to a run-first team that relies on ball control is exactly the type of team that would fall victim to the Falcons.
Allow me to paint an example.
The Falcons ideal game plan is that they open up with the running game to encourage teams to “stack the box” against them. If the Falcons offense starts seeing a defense that is playing the run, the Falcons will start mixing it up and play the pass. Assuming all goes well, by the end of the first quarter the Falcons should have a lead.
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At this point, a team like the Saints are dead in the water. If the Falcons start scoring touchdowns in bunches, like the team did when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator, their opponents are forced to abandon the running game and rely on their passing game to score and move the chains.
A team like the Saints that relies on an exceptional running game will struggle to go vertical. Thus, despite having a future Hall of Famer as their passer, the Saints are not built to win shootouts or play from behind.
No. 2: Is Steve Sarkisian on the hot seat?
As of today, I don’t believe Steve Sarkisian is on the hot seat. However, if Sarkisian and Matt Ryan are unable to find common ground, I believe Sarkisian could be on the chopping block come Black Monday.
The biggest factor that will decide Sarkisian’s employment status will be Ryan’s approval of Sarkisian. I could foresee a scenario where the Falcons improve upon their win total from last season and still fire Sarkisian. Atlanta does have a franchise quarterback in Ryan and as a result, he has a lot of leverage and weight with both the front office and coaching staff. As a veteran player and leader on this team if Ryan simply does not feel that Sarkisian is “the guy” to coach this offense, Ryan more than has the power to get him fired.
Normally, NFL players do not have the power to get coaches fired like their NBA counterparts do. However, offensive coordinators and star quarterbacks must be in sync, and if a star quarterback says “it’s you, not me,” any smart front office will trust their most valuable commodity.
Remember! Don’t forget to submit questions for next week’s questions to @BloggingDirty on Twitter using #FalconsMail!