Roddy White is questionable to play this weekend with a sprained ankle.
The star receiver, whose streak of 128 consecutive games played spans from his 2005 rookie season, is officially listed as questionable heading into Atlanta's opening bout with the New Orleans Saints. The team's official Twitter feed names White, along with cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas, as uncertain to suit up this weekend.
White does not sound concerned about missing action for the first time in his nine-year career. He downplayed the issue in an Associated Press report (via ESPN).
"Come Sunday I'll be ready to go. My adrenaline will be pumping, and once you get out there you've got to just go play."
After spraining his right ankle during Atlanta's second preseason game, White missed the final two exhibition contests but practiced sparingly on Wednesday and Thursday. Losing White, who caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns last season, would greatly hinder Atlanta's chances of slaying New Orleans on the road.
The Falcons still have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and newly-acquired Stephen Jackson, but they need every weapon they can get their hands on against the Saints, who are hungry to make a statement in Sean Payton's return.
Atlanta's arsenal cannot out-duel New Orleans in a shootout at half strength. Despite Jones' emergence as another star receiver, White received a team-high 143 targets last season. Jones, a less sturdy option, will not escape double teams with Harry Douglas lining up on the other side, leaving a lion's share of the responsibility on Jackson's 30-year-old legs.
While White corralled just one catch in Atlanta's victory over New Orleans last season, the Dirty Birds are unlikely to hold Drew Brees to 13 points at the Superdome. Neither squad is winning this bout by a score of 23-13.
ESPN statistician Sudsy Sudell demonstrated just how valuable White has been in Atlanta's head-to-head clashes at New Orleans.
Roddy White has 100+ rec yards in 5 of last 6 visits to New Orleans (3 TD in that span)— Sudsy Sudell (@SudsySudell) September 2, 2013
Even with White, the Falcons enter Sunday's contest as a three-point underdog (according to Vegas Insider). They would have earned a ticket to the Super Bowl had their defense proved capable of keeping the San Francisco 49ers out of the end zone for a minute, and their secondary became even weaker with Brent Grimes moving to Miami.
New Orleans, whose defense can't get any worse than last year, is not a team anybody should want to mess with this season. Entrenched deep into revenge mode, an angered team that feels they were treated harshly in the bounty scandal could resemble the Saints that ran up the score late in 2011 to re-write the offensive record books.
Roddy White can't do anything to stop Brees, but Ryan and the Falcons need their veteran receiver on Sunday to keep up with the Saints' massive firepower.