Saints at Falcons: What Defense Will Take The Field For Atlanta?

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst INovember 8, 2008

It was no secret last week that the Falcons were in store for a huge day offensively against the Oakland Raiders. However, what was unexpected was the way the defense completely shut down the silver and black.

Holding the Raiders to negative net yardage in the first half, it was the first time a team had accomplished this feat in the NFL in nearly 15 years. 

Atlanta finished that game 24-0. A truly impressive performance.

That was last week. Now, the New Orleans Saints roll into town with their top ranked passing offense charging into the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Averaging just a shade under 315 yards a game, it will certainly be a test for this aggressive Atlanta defense.

All of those passing yards translates into points for the Saints as they are ranked in the top 10 in points in the league averaging nearly four touchdowns a game.

Drew Brees has shown that he can stand in the pocket and deliver the football to a variety of receivers like Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Marques Colston. Brees already has surpassed 2,500 passing yards and has 15 TD's to boot. He definitely is an elite quarterback.

The Saints will also likely be playing with their big free agent acquisition in Jeremy Shockey at tight end who is returning back from a sports hernia injury. Adding Shockey to the plethora of receivers at Brees' disposal is only more bad news for the Falcons.

With such a dominating defensive performance last week against the Raiders a new question arises. What defense will now take the field for Atlanta against the offensive juggernaut in the Saints?

That is the good news for the Saints. Now for the bad.

For an offense that is so pass-happy, New Orleans is ranked near to the bottom of the league in rushing offense. Averaging barely under 90 yards a game, it seems as though the Saints have completely become a one dimensional team.

The running game will likely not be any better without Reggie Bush in the mix who is still out with a knee injury. Deuce McAllister will have to brunt the bulk of the carries and has not been the same since his devestating ACL injury several years back.

As great as the Saints offense has been, their defense is nearly as horrid. Ranked 25th in the league in the pass rush by giving up an average of nearly 240 yards a game, the Saints have an Achilles heel.

It could set up for a shootout for Matt Ryan to hook up with Michael Jenkins and Roddy White down field.

New Orleans does have a respectable rush defense by only allowing close to 110 yards a game, good for 18th best in the league. The Saints have only allowed one 100-yard rusher the entire season which translates into Michael Turner needing to continue to push the league's top rushing offense.

Atlanta has surprised many people this year already. Several analysts and writers have agreed that the Falcons are the surprise team of the NFL. They were supposed to be the bottom dwellers in the NFC South, not contending.

If Atlanta's defense can carry over the momentum they created in Oakland, they could improve their divisional record. Sitting at 0-2 in the NFC South, tomorrow's showdown with New Orleans could start either a tighter competition or a downward trend.

The key will be what defense shows up for Atlanta.