The Falcons tackle the Saints in a little over twelve hours. If you can make it through the work day without feeling a little psyched up, you might be a lost cause.
As usual, we're hitting the key matchups in tonight's game, one at a time. Join me after the jump, because I can't ramble when I'm this excited.
Falcons Secondary vs. Drew Brees & Co.
Grayson was among those who suggested this, and I think it has to headline the matchups. Just because this isn't the season where Drew Brees lit the world on fire doesn't mean he can't cheerfully take a torch to the Falcons' young cornerbacks and safeties.
Because Brees is such a huge part of the team's offensive identity, taking away his ability to successfully pass virtually grinds the Saints' offense to a halt. Of course, he's surrounded by quality weapons and is one of the most precise quarterbacks in the NFL. How do you stop him?
By intercepting his passes, of course. The Falcons just so happen to have a pair of ballhawks back there in Brent Grimes and William Moore, and Brees has been taking more chances in 2010. Playing aggressively could reward the Falcons in a big way, and two picks that hand the ball over to a motivated Atlanta offense could make the difference in this one.
Oh, and a quality pass rush wouldn't hurt one bit.
Matt Ryan vs. Mistakes
Before Saints fans point to their rings and yell in incomprehensible accents, I'm not saying that New Orleans doesn't have any defensive acumen. I'm not saying that if Ryan makes a mistake, it will be solely due to his own tragic flaw as a classic Greek hero.
But it is true that Ryan must limit his turnovers. He's had a remarkable season as the Falcons quarterback, but these last few weeks he's been prone to interceptions. I know it's asking a lot for Ice to be mistake-free, but that's what it's going to take against an obnoxiously opportunistic defense like the Saints have.
So let's not re-invent the wheel here. Short passes, guys running crisp routes and the occasional checkdowns to Jason Snelling would be good here. And yes, I am calling for a conservative passing attack against the New Orleans Saints. Try not to drop your red and black coffee mug in surprise.
Falcons Control the Ball
This is another matchup against the Saints defense. While, as some will tell you, controlling the clock is as much a result of victory as it is a cause, it's also an excellent way to wear down a defense. If you guessed Michael Turner is involved in this strategy, then you get a gold star.
Basically, this should be the other half of the team's offensive identity, as Jeanna Thomas tells us. Pound Michael Turner, get some yardage on the ground and grind away the clock. It has the added benefit of testing the conditioning of the Saints defense, which can't be that good after living in New Orleans for a few years. These people will eat anything in roux.
So smart money says Michael Turner gets 25 carries again. Hopefully he can rest up during the Panthers game in Week 17.
The Battle of Special Teams
If you believe our friend orang3b--and you should--the Falcons own the advantage here. With the way Eric Weems has been playing in recent weeks, it's not a stretch to suggest he might be a factor in this one.
The Saints do have Reggie Bush, who at least used to be a dangerous returner, but it's not like Garrett Hartley saved the Saints last time they played the Falcons. Ah, fond memories.