The New Orleans Saints, after an outstanding win in Miami, are still undefeated and come home to play their first division game against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. The Falcons are two games behind the Saints at 4-2 and a win is huge to help them stay within reach of New Orleans.
If Atlanta falls behind 3 games at the half, they will need to play a tremendous second half of the season. Let's say Atlanta loses. They will fall to 4-3 and 1-1 in division games. The Saints will be 7-0 and 1-0 in division games. The Saints wrap up the first half of the season with a home game against Carolina and then start the second half with a trip to St. Louis. After that, the Saints face an easy schedule facing teams like the Buccaneers (of course), the Redskins, and the Cowboys and Patriots at home. This is why Atlanta needs to defeat New Orleans Monday night and gain as much momentum as possible.
There are many key factors to who wins this match up but my personal favorite is emotion. In any division game, their will always be raw emotion. The 0-7 Bucs could travel to the Big Easy and pull an upset. That's the way NFL is, division games are emotional and the Falcons are going to be determined to make this week a win.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
So, how about the Saints? After last weeks twenty-one deficit they come back to win by twelve. Now we know these guys can play from behind but how what if your playing from behind in a game like this?
Drew Brees after his sky-high QB rating of 118 has now dropped to 107 due to his iffy performance in Miami (1 TD, 3 INT.), but he is still critical for the Saints offense. Brees doesn't lead the league in touchdowns anymore but runs a close fourth with fourteen. It isn't all stats though. Drew Brees is an amazing team leader. He's emotional, he doesn't give up, and he's a team player. #9, possible MVP, runs this #1 offense with a tons of hype.
Averaging 427 yards a game the Saints possess the best offense in the league. Their rushing attack comes in third averaging 155 yards a game, and Brees and his many recievers rank sixth in the air game (273 yards a game on average). As for the defense, close to top ten but not quite. As of now New Orleans has the eleventh ranked defense (allowing 307 a game) with the improving pass defense ranked fourteenth and the impressive eighth ranked rush defense that has, for the most part, stopped some of the league's elite runners (Ahmad Bradshaw, Thomas Jones, Ronnie Brown, not so much Ricky Williams).
The Saints secondary is also extremely impressive. The defense leads the league in takeaways with 18 and thirteen of those are interceptions. I found out today that Darren Sharper is the NFC Defensive Player of the month. He has six interceptions and three returned for touchdowns. This secondary may be allowing yards but they don't let up on taking the ball from you. Sharper, Greer, Porter all have a few interceptions. Williams' has improved this secondary and overall defense by about 99.9%.
Michael Turner hasn't quite turned on the jets but the overall run game averages 102 a game which is good for 19th in the league. With 7 touchdowns, you think Turner would be be better than the stats. He averages 3 yards per carry and about 67 per game. The run game needs improvement and the Saints top ten rush defense should be a good test for Turner. Matt Ryan, in my opinion, needs improvement also. He is a great team leader but is only averaging 220 yards a game which is good for 17th. With 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions he too will need to step as Darren Sharper will be looking for another pick-six to tie Rod Woodson. Overall, the Atlanta Falcons hold the nineteenth ranked offense that will need to show up and shut up the eleventh ranked defense of New Orleans.
Defensively, the Atlanta Falcons aren't a whole lot better. Allowing 368 yards a game, the Atlanta defense has found themselves extremely low amongst some of the worst defenses and are overall ranked 25th. On average they are allowing 250 pass yards (ranked 26th) which could be an area that need work considering your playing Brees backed by the thirteenth man. The run game is 23rd allowing 118 yards a game.
Here are just some matchups so you can see them visually
#1 Offense & Brees (107 Rating) VS. the #25 Defense
#19 Offense (Atlanta) VS. the #11 Defense (New Orleans)
#6 Pass Game (New Orleans) VS. the #26 Pass Defense (Atlanta)
#3 Rush Game (New Orleans) VS. the #23 (Rush Defense)
Matt Ryan VS. Darren Sharper
Michael Turner VS. the #8 Run Defense (New Orleans)
I know the stats seem to favor the Saints, but like I said, it's a division game. Like I mentioned before, falling three games behind almost dooms the Falcons. The Dirty Birds have to make two trip to Giants Stadium and still have to play Philadelphia. A win will keep them right behind the Saints and another chance to beat them at the Georgia Dome. My opinion, the home crowd and the Black & Gold take advantage of the low ranked defense and Brees has a good night. Saints win 35- 24.