The New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons will be squaring off for the second time in the month of November. In their first, meeting the Saints were able to beat the Falcons by a final score of 31-27. However, the Saints won at home in that first game and this time they will be on the road in the hostile Georgia Dome.
There is definitely some bad blood between these two teams and the Falcons will relish the chance to get even with their bitter rivals. On the other hand, the Saints’ playoff chances are all but over and any win they can get at this point is crucial.
I think this Thursday night showdown will be even more intense than the first contest because there is as much on the line if not more this time around. A win for the Falcons would almost affirm the top seed in the NFC for the team. A win for the Saints would keep their slim playoff chances on life support and give them bragging rights over their rival.
Saints X Factor: The Saints x factor this week will be quarterback Drew Brees. Brees needs to shake off his poor outing last week against the San Francisco 49ers. This game will be a perfect opportunity for Brees to bounce back and help the Saints secure another win. Brees loves playing on the big stage and this Thursday night contest will be nationally televised and a chance for Brees to shine. Brees needs to continue to play the way he has been playing all season and institute a balanced offense for the Saints. Furthermore, Brees needs to limit his turnovers against the Falcons. Brees’ two interceptions against the 49ers cost the Saints the win on Sunday. Brees will be huge for the Saints and it will ultimately come down to his leadership for the Saints to get a win.
Falcons X Factor: The Falcons x factor this week will be quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has been heavily criticized his entire career for not stepping in big games. This game against the Saints may not mean much in terms of playoff seeding but it will be a big game for Ryan nonetheless. Ryan needs to get a big lead against the Saints and keep it because the Falcons do not want to get into another close contest, especially not with the Saints. Ryan needs to have a big game and prove to everyone that he can come through when it counts. Furthermore, I think another loss to the Saints would disrupt Ryan’s psyche.
How the Saints can win this game: The Saints will win this game the same way they won the first game against the Falcons. The Saints must establish a balanced offense and that means they must distribute the ball evenly through the air and on the ground. Brees will be instrumental in helping the Saints secure a win and must find all of his great receivers, preferably in the end zone. Also, tight end Jimmy Graham will be huge for the Saints if he can have another big game much like he did in the first game against the Falcons.
How the Falcons can win this game: The Falcons will win this game with great quarterback play from Ryan. Ryan has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season and the Falcons need him to play well and keep the Falcons winning. Also, it would be nice if the Falcons got something out of running back Michael Turner, who has been somewhat slumping for the past few weeks. Ryan and the Falcons need to get the monkey off their back and beat the Saints and Ryan needs to be mentally tough and command his team to victory.
Final Prediction: This game figures to be another shootout and I think it will come down to the wire much like the first game. With that said, I have to give it to the Saints again because the Falcons have not shown that they can beat the Saints yet. The Falcons last two games were victories but the margin of the victories was only five points. If it comes down to a close game I have to go with the Saints. The Falcons need to beat their rivals and then they could be the heavy favorite to win the NFC. Saints win 35-32.