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Four Critical Matchups In The Falcons-Saints Game

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There are no easy games against the New Orleans Saints.

There's myriad reasons for that, but if you want to chop it up, really mince it and boil it down, it's because the Saints are a good football team. So are the Falcons. Ergo, close games.

Because of the importance of this particular game—a win here would catapult the Falcons into a tie for first place—there's an awful lot of matchups to be profiled. Particularly since I'm putting my typical questions post on hiatus for the week.

So let's look at four, at least, and discuss many more. The Falcons need this game and are lucky enough to be playing it at the Georgia Dome, so I doubt we'll run out of things to talk about.

After the jump, we'll get right to the mini-breakdowns.

Michael Turner versus Aubrayo Franklin

The Saints added Aubrayo Franklin in the off-season. One of the most effective defensive tackles in the league against the run in 2010, Franklin was supposed to be a huge upgrade for the team's rush defense. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

While Franklin himself isn't entirely to blame, the Saints have continued to give up huge chunks of yardage to opposing offenses. Saints fans are very familiar with Turner's particular brand of destruction, and it's worth noting that Turner has been en fuego of late. He's probably the offensive key for this one.

Franklin may be their best bet to stop Burner, especially given Mike Mularkey's love affair with runs up the gut. For that reason alone, it'll be worth watching when the two of them butt heads.

Drew Brees versus Brent Grimes

He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation, but Brees throws a few picks along the way. Given his otherwise ruthless, machinesque performances, the Falcons will need to capitalize on those.

The Falcons just so happen to have his mortal enemy playing in the backfield, in the form of Brent Grimes. Grimey has had every quarterback in the NFC South on speed dial these last couple of seasons, and he's tormented Brees throughout.

The secondary in general is going to have their hands full with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, to say nothing of Darren Sproles. Grimes and his amazing magnetic hands can help make that job a little easier.

Darren Sproles versus Sean Weatherspoon

'Spoon has been a force of nature thus far this season, with an impact that goes beyond the stat sheet. His speed and his excellent instincts have helped to turn him from a faltering rookie into a potentially elite linebacker.

He'll get a real test Sunday, as well Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas. That test comes in the tiny form of Darren Sproles, who has been absolutely lights out for the Saints this season. It's not necessarily his running that makes him so dangerous, but his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

In that role, he's already caught 56 balls and averaged 8 yards per reception. The Falcons have to clamp down on him by getting at him at the line of scrimmage and tailing him a few yards from the line. 'Spoon's probably the best one to do it.

Matt Bosher versus Darren Sproles

Yes, Sproles gets mentioned twice. You wanna fight about it?

The Saints have one of the best offenses in the NFL. If the Falcons can establish Turner and get a decent passing game going, they'll score plenty against a middling defense. It won't matter if they can't slow down New Orleans, though.

Winning the battle of field position would help. Matt Bosher took a huge stride forward last week, rewarding the coaching staff that was so patient with him and spiting fans who clamored for his head. If he can boot it deep and the Falcons can keep Sproles in check—he's less of a dangerous returner, thankfully—it will go a long way toward keeping New Orleans in check.

What say you to these matchups?