The Falcons have another road game coming up, and it also happens to be against the rival New Orleans Saints on the tenth anniversary of the “Katrina” game. This game already has a bad voodoo vibe to it, but we’re going to take a dark-magic-less look at how the Falcons offense matches up to the Saints defense.
In the Trenches
After a relatively rough outing against the Bucs, the Falcons offensive line turned in a strong performance against the Oakland Raiders. In particular, Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder have been consistently good in both games, while Jake Matthews bounced back nicely against Oakland. Andy Levitre has quietly had a strong season. Chris Chester appears to be the sole weak link on the line this year.
The Saints have some good players on their defensive line, with Cameron Jordan and Paul Kruger offering the ability to get to the QB. Nick Fairley is somewhat inconsistent on the interior, but has the ability to be disruptive. Tyeler Davison is an unknown that probably doesn’t scare the opposition.
If the Falcons offensive line can replicate the game against the Raiders - who featured better pass rushers - the Falcons should win this match-up. However, Cameron Jordan has been a pain in the past, so he’s a name to pay attention to on Monday.
The Skill Positions
The Falcons have a plethora of weapons this year, anchored by QB Matt Ryan and All-Pro WR Julio Jones. Jacob Tamme is having one of the best starts to his career, while Mohamed Sanu, Aldrick Robinson and even Taylor Gabriel are all finding roles in this offense. Even rookie tight end Austin Hooper is getting involved. In the backfield, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman had very strong performances in week 2 in both the passing and running game. This offense looked absolutely potent against the Raiders and likely would have put up 40+ points were it not for the sole turnover of the game.
The Saints defense is ailing, having lost CB Delvin Breaux in the first game of the season. Corners Ken Crawley and Sterline Moore have a difficult task ahead of them. The Saints do have one of the better young safeties in the league in Kenny Vaccaro who plays opposite the disappointing free agent signing Jairus Byrd. Linebackers James Laurinaitis, Craig Robertson and Stephone Anthony are decent, but do not present a formidable challenge in the middle.
Simply put, this is a matchup the Falcons should be able to exploit. The Saints corners are a huge question mark and the linebackers can be taken advantage of. With the way that Ryan was distributing the ball on Sunday, if he gets time in the pocket, this game could easily develop into a shootout.
This is a Saints defense that is banged up with lots of question marks. This defense did hold the Giants to 16 points last week, so we can’t simply presume that they will lay down on Monday night. If anything, this rivalry has shown over and over that rankings and analysis go out the window once the game takes place.
On paper, though, the Falcons have a distinct advantage that they should be able to take advantage of. If this were any other team, I’d feel confident about this conclusion. As it is, I’m just waiting for Monday to get here.