New Orleans faces their biggest test of the season this week when they have the Falcons at home. Atlanta, of course, is 8-0 this season. The Saints are at 3-5, and have to be nearly perfect if they want to reach the postseason. It’s an unlikely task, but the Saints will play hard until it is impossible. Luckily for them, they are playing their best football as of late. They have won 3 of their last 4, and last week against the Eagles they played their most complete game.
The Falcons are much a similar team to last years squad. I don’t believe they are much better, even though their record indicates that. They haven’t had the toughest schedule, but to their credit they are the only undefeated team in the NFL. What is different is their offense. Much of the personnel is the same, but they have moved to a quicker paced, pass first offense. No longer is Michael Turner the workhorse he has been in previous years. He is still the starter, but he is just a small part of this offense. It’s all about Matt Ryan and his receivers. Roddy White is still an elite threat, and Julio Jones is the real deal. The combo may be the best 1-2 receiver duo in the league. That won’t be easy for New Orleans to stop. The Saints had their first actual good defensive game last week, and they did so limiting the red zone damage and sacking the QB. They will need to do the same here. Atlanta will get their yards, but the Saints can toughen up inside the 20, they could have a shot. Cam Jordan and Will Smith had big games last week, their presence could be crucial this week.
As for the Atlanta defense, they have been solid but not spectacular. Their weakest point is the rushing defense. They rank near the bottom of the league in rush defense, which is telling considering they have led most of every contest. The Saints had a solid rushing attack last week, but it is hard to imagine them sticking to that. It would be in their best interest, though, to at least get something going on the ground. They won’t load up the box with Drew Brees under center, so the run will be there if they take it. I think Mark Ingram could be in for a solid game. No matter what this game looks like a shootout to me. New Orleans has a ton of motivation to win this game. They want to keep their season alive and beat the division rival. The only question is if they have the talent to win it.