Dave Choate: The Saints look like they have a little bounce in their collective step of late. How much of that is Sean Payton shaking things up, how much of it is just righting the ship and how much of it is feasting on crappy defenses?
Dave Cariello: I think it's definitely the latter. The Saints beat the Bears last week, but Chicago is a trainwreck right now. Saints fans would be foolish to think that was a statement win by any stretch. Their win over the Steelers two weeks ago was slightly more impressive but Roethlisberger hurt his hand in that game and looked off the entire day.
And Payton's "shakeups" were laughable, in my opinion. He didn't bench Kenny Vaccaro, despite reports to the contrary. He brought in a few kickers to workout but didn't sign any of them. All he really did was get rid of wide receiver Joe Morgan, who wasn't a very integral part of this offense anyway. So at the end of the day, what did he really shake up?
All of this doesn't really matter, of course, because when it's Saints vs. Falcons, everything goes out the window.
Dave Choate: The defense has been hit with injuries and ineffective play. Have they improved at all, and what should the Falcons expect to see that will be drastically different than Week 1?
Dave Cariello: Yeah, the defensive drop off this year after last season's incredible turnaround has been disappointing to say the least. Nobody saw that coming. And the terribleness has been pretty consistent throughout the year so I don't think I would expect anything drastically different this Sunday. The defense is coming off a good performance Monday night against the Bears, notching 7 sacks and 3 interceptions, but again, you've got to consider the competition there. Until this unit can put together a consistent string of good play, I'm going to be skeptical.The only difference that could possibly be their saving grace is in the secondary, where they've got some young guys like Pierre Warren, Brian Dixon, and Jamarca Sanford seeing significantly more playing time and who might be hungry to prove themselves .
Dave Choate: Is Drew Brees finally entering the decline phase of his career, or has he been about as good as he usually is in 2014? Has his supporting cast taken a hit?
Dave Cariello: Drew is definitely declining but that doesn't mean he's not a good quarterback anymore. I'd still take him over most other starting quarterbacks in the league. The guy is completing 70% of his passes (1st in the league), has a 101.4 QB rating (5th best) and has 4,358 yards passing (3rd best). He only needs to average 321 passing yards these last two games to hit 5,000 on the season yet again. Those aren't numbers to scoff at. Also, the Saints have the 3rd best passing attack in the league, if we're talking about yards/game. So I don't think the supporting cast is really the issue.
Part of the problem is that Drew himself set the damn bar so high that we're all spoiled and even the slightest drop off causes panic. Fans have definitely lost patience with Drew more this year than any other though. Most of that is really just because of his interceptions (even though he's thrown fewer interceptions than Andrew Luck). Brees has seemed to develop a knack for throwing untimely interceptions, many of which get returned for touchdowns.
So everyone is ready to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback and start the process of grooming his successor. I still think he's got a couple of years left.
Dave Choate: The ground game has been the bane of this Falcons team, but they've actually done a nice job bottling up backs in recent weeks. Can Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas change that up?
Dave Cariello: Pierre Thomas hasn't really been used heavily in the running game this season. He's only got 45 carries this year but that's mostly due to the fact that he's missed significant time due to injury. He seems to be getting back up to speed however. If Thomas is going to hurt the Falcons, it will most likely be catching passes. He looked as good as usual last week against the Bears in the screen game.
Mark Ingram is probably who you need to worry about more. He's having the best season of his career, by a mile. When he's given the bulk of the carries and the opportunity to get into a rhythm, Ingram proved this year that he can be dangerous. It's been a few weeks since he's tore it up so I'd say he's due. Remember that Ingram notched two touchdowns against you guys in Week 1. Watch out!
Dave Choate: What's your prediction for the week, and the rest of this miserable season?\
Dave Cariello: No way the Saints lose to the Falcons twice in the same season, especially not after the way they lost in Week 1. So I've got to go with the Saints this Sunday. It will be close, of course, as it almost always is. As for the rest of this dumpster fire of the season, I think the Saints actually win their first playoff game at home then show their true colors by losing in the Divisional round, thus screwing themselves in the draft order. (Editor's Note: We approve of this outcome, if the Falcons do lose)
Be sure to go check out Canal Street Chronicles this week.