Yes, unfettered. I went there.
Amongst all the talk of Jacquizz Rodgers being a sleeper, Michael Turner being ready and willing to run all over the Saints' faces and how Drew Brees is going to destroy the Falcons with his laser-guided rocket arm and nanosecond release because he is actually a robot, there's something we haven't really discussed all that much. That something is the Falcons passing game.
We've lauded Roddy White and Julio Jones, and more than one astute reader has named Harry Douglas their sleeper for the upcoming game. What I want to spend a little time talking about is the likelihood that this is going to become an old-fashioned shootout, because the Falcons are capable and willing to pass all over the New Orleans defense. Yes, even with Mike Mularkey running the offense.
After the jump, three reasons why I believe the Falcons will eat the Saints alive through the air.
Good, you're here. Here's my three thoughts:
Matt Ryan has had success against the Saints. In his short career, Ryan has faced the Saints six times. Sound the small sample size alarm!
In those six games, Ryan has only had one truly bad game and one middling one. The remaining four have been very good, and lifetime he has a 91.5 quarterback rating against New Orleans.
Earlier this season, Ryan threw 52 passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It wasn't his finest effort of the season, but it showed that he could have success against a Saints' secondary that's nobody's idea of great. It also doesn't hurt that Julio Jones seems to be much further along the learning curve than he was a few weeks back.
The Saints' defense is truly woeful. Okay, not the entire defense. If they get after the passer like they're capable of, it's going to be a problem.
It's really more the secondary, which has allowed a decent game from A.J. Feeley (yes, that A.J. Feeley...he went 20/37 for 175 yards and a touchdown), Josh Freeman (584 yards, 3 TDs and no INTS in two games), and Eli Manning (33/47 for 406 yards, 2 TDs and an INT). They struggle to cover big, speedy guys like Julio Jones, and they definitely struggle to cover tight ends like Tony Gonzalez. If their pass rush isn't working and they're not getting turnovers, the secondary is abysmal.
The Falcons are finally clicking. The Jaguars and Panthers actually have decent defenses, but in back-to-back weeks, Ryan & Co. have destroyed them. That's due in no small part to Roddy White and Julio Jones coming on, which I'll freely admit might not be the case every single week.
Facing a weak secondary, with a ton on the line and confidence in tow, they should be able to make things happen.
It's not very scientific, but hey, I'm not a scientist.
So that's why I'm optimistic right now. Are you?