The Atlanta Falcons were 8-0 when they rolled up into New Orleans, losing to the Saints 31-27 in one of the better games of this NFL season. Now it’s for the rematch, with the Falcons back on a roll, and the Saints in a situation where they can’t afford to lose.
It’s been hard explaining the success of the Atlanta Falcons this season, coming up with a different way to win each week. One surprising fact has been their ability to win despite the very lackluster running game, as Michael Turner is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and only 53.8 yards per game. He was limited to 15 on 13 carries against the Saints, and has rushed for 100 or more only twice this season.
Luckily for the Saints, their passing game has been fantastic, except for the dropped passes. Julius Jones has been incosisntent, but he finished with 147 yards and a touchdown in the big 24-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Roddy White (1003 yards, 4 touchdown) and Tony Gonzalez (712 yards, 6 touchdowns) have been as reliable as can be.
And there’s Ryan himself, who should defenitley be considered for the MVP this season. He has more passing yards than Drew Brees, believe it or not (3425 to 3333) and has a better completion ratio (68.5% to 62.4%). Brees does throw more touchdown passes, but the Falcons aren’t winning soley for being an offensive juggernaut, which they aren’t. They’re solid all over the field except for their running game, while Ryan makes the right decision and follows through with execution more times than he has in the past.
For the Saints, it’s a bit simpler than that. Their defense is improving, but still very bad. They get torched on blitzes and they hardly manage to hit opposing quarterbacks. Their running game is terrible, standing at 88 yards per game. It’s all up to Brees and what he makes of his connection with Sproles and Jimmy Graham, because the Falcons are excellent at limiting wide receivers.
Sproles didn’t play against the Falcons, but has been mostly efficient in passing plays this season. Jimmy Graham, one of the worst matchups for any linebacker in the league had his biggest game of the season against the Falcons, finishing with 146 yards and two touchdowns. If Brees can get Graham going early, it should open up a lot for Pierre Thomas on the ground and Marques Colston in the passing game.
Prediction – The Falcons are obvious favorites, especially at home, to end the hopes of the New Orlenas Saints (5-6, 2-3 away) in 2012. Still, worth mentioning: Since week 6 of last season, the Falcons are 18-4. Three of their four losses have been to the Saints.