Round one in Mercedes Benz Superdome was just a warm-up. Now it’s time for the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints to take the kid gloves off and trade haymakers in the Georgia Dome while all the football world watches on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
This game has been circled on the calendar of both teams since the schedule was released. A prime time matchup between the Falcons and Saints always brings some sort of drama with it. However, typically when these two hated rivals clash on national T.V., it doesn’t turn out well for the Falcons. But this time Atlanta has the leg up in the division, and can potentially clinch the NFC South with a victory over the visitors in gold and black.
If you ask this writer, the Falcons are due to lay down a good ol’ fashioned southern woodshedding on the Saints. In fact, they should require former Falcon, and now antagonist Curtis Lofton to head out to the thicket and pick out the proverbial switch.
Over the past eight meetings–with the exception of last year’s 45-16 bloodbath Saints victory–the games have all been decided by an average of four points. The problem for the Falcons is that they’ve only been on the winning end of one of those eight games, which brings me to the main issue surrounding some very close Atlanta losses.
Can the Falcons succeed in short-yardage situations (particularly near the end zone) against the Saints?
Last year’s bitter memories of “fourth and inches” and the most recent debacle of not being able to convert on first and goal inside the five-yard line need to be permanently erased from the memories of the players and the fans. The Falcons’ offensive line needs to invoke the spirits of Jeff Van Note, Mike Kenn and Harvey Dahl and start moving bodies backwards at will.
Hint to Atlanta coaches: The Saints are expecting to see Michael Turner get the ball when it’s a short down-and-distance in a crucial spot. That fact, and Turner’s year-long slump should preclude that type of play calling from happening. Pull some guards, have these big Atlanta wide receivers lay down some seal blocks on the edge, and run the ball on the Saints defense like practically every other team in the league has been able to do this season.
Well, one can hope.
The last few games against New Orleans, the Falcons have looked like they were more afraid of losing the game rather than going out to try and win it. Atlanta has every match-up advantage conceivable in this game, and where they don’t have an advantage they are clearly not outgunned by the Saints.
When the Falcons button up the chin straps on Thursday night, they need to be confident that they are the better team this year, and go out and rain down blows upon the team that claims to “own this division”.