The 2012 records are in stark contrast to each other as the Falcons are 10-1 (#1 seed in NFC) and the Saints are just 5-6 (#11 seed in NFC). However this has been a series that the Saints have dominated.
Drew Brees is 11-3 vs ATL with 30 TDs and just 13 INTs. He averages a whopping 297 pass yards vs the Falcons.
Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Smith have made careers out of beating everyone, except they struggle vs the Saints. Ryan is just 2-6 vs NWO, and Mike Smith is 51-15 vs non-Saints teams but he has a poor 2-7 record vs New Orleans.
The key in this battle of great passing games is going to be which team can establish a run game to give them balance. In the Saints five wins this year they are getting 114 yards on the ground, but in their six losses that plummets to just 72.
As awesome as Brees is he does require balance to help the Saints win games. In their five wins Brees averages just 33 passes per game (nice balance) but in their six losses he averages a whopping 46 passes per game (yikes…way too many).
The Saints are getting half as many rushing 1st downs in 2012 as they did in 2011. If I am the Saints offensive coordinator then I am dialing up (minimum) 25 run plays for the combo of Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, plus I am sprinkling in a few opportunities for Darren Sproles.
For the Falcons we know their opportunity for balance is Michael Turner. This veteran has struggled mightily on the road, but he is at 4.3 yards per carry at home.
No team allows their opponent into the red zone more than the Saints (especially on the road) so we should see numerous opportunities for scores from Turner, and TE Tony Gonzalez.
We will watch to see what defensive coordinator has made the best adjustments since that week 10 Saints victory over the Falcons (31-27). In that game both TEs had massive days. Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham were each over 100+ receiving yards, and each had a pair of TD catches.
I think ATL is looking for revenge, plus this should be a game where they can score almost at will. Add the fact that they are the most disciplined team in the NFL (for penalties anyway…least penalized team in NFL) and I see a great opportunity for the Falcons to get to 11-1.
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