In the lexicon of current NFL rivalries, the twice annual grudge match between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints has taken it’s place among the top of the heap. Round one for 2012 is this week in New Orleans.
The Saints have been able to get the best of the Falcons over the past six seasons, winning 10 of 12 games, even in years when it seems Atlanta could match up talent-wise with New Orleans. The reason for this lopsidedness can be explained in two words:
The Saints had it, the Falcons didn’t. But over the past four seasons the Falcons have slowly begun to take on the personality of their head coach, and now have the ability to scrap until the very last second of the game rather than think of new and creative ways to make excuses for losing.
This year not only do the match-ups favor Falcons, but it would seem based on performances to date, Atlanta has the edge in that all-important mental toughness aspect. If the same Saints defense shows up that played against the Philadelphia Eagles this past week, it might still be a close game. Otherwise, we could be looking at a bloodbath by the Dirty Birds in the Superdome.
KEY MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
QB Drew Brees vs. the Falcons secondary – Even in years when the Falcons had a less than stellar crop of defensive backs, they seemed to be able to figure out Drew Brees. However, last season Brees feasted on Atlanta’s thinned by injury secondary. Look for the Falcons’ safeties to have a big game, particularly Thomas DeCoud.
TE Tony Gonzalez vs. LB Curtis Lofton – With the Falcons having so many different weapons at wide receiver and in the backfield, tight end Tony Gonzalez may very well get matched up in some one-on-ones with Saints linebackers. Curtis Lofton has been one of the only bright spots on the New Orleans defense this season, so the honor of trying to cover Gonzalez may fall on him.
LT Jermon Bushrod vs. DE John Abraham – Facing Abraham is never an easy task, but Bushrod is going to really have his hands full this week. Both of these guys are some of the best at their respective positions. Abraham loves getting after Brees and is one of the best at forcing fumbles by a quarterback.
Atlanta still holds a lead 46-40 in the overall series, including the only playoff meeting between the two teams. The Saints have won the past three meetings, and six of the last eight.
Falcons – Out: LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle)
Saints – Questionable: RB Darren Sproles (hand), RT Zach Strief (groin), DE Junior Galette (ankle)
The Falcons haven’t forgotten the 45-16 beating they took against the Saints in New Orleans last season, and some retribution will most likely be forthcoming. Look for Atlanta to win big, and remain the NFL’s only undefeated team. Falcons win 48-20