You’ve already gotten the skinny on the Falcons’ offense versus the Saints’ defense, as well as Allen’s weekly writeup on what you’ll need to watch. What we attempt to do in this series is identify three matchups worth noting, and then hold ourselves accountable by reviewing those matchups after the game to see how they turned out.
With Falcons-Saints, most of these matchups will be familiar, because these two teams have familiar battles each year and likely will until Sean Payton and Drew Brees are gone. That doesn’t mean they won’t be critical
Julio Jones versus a helpless set of Saints cornerbacks
The Falcons have not utilized Julio Jones to his full potential thus far in 2016, though he has a cool nine receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns through just two games. That’s partly due to nagging injuries and partly just gameplan, as the Falcons have made a point of spreading the ball around.
If Julio’s going to blow up and have one of those stunning games where he reels in 10-plus catches for something like 200 yards, this would be the game. The Saints’ cornerbacks corps consists of savvy veteran Sterling Moore and a series of no name options who couldn’t stop you or I from catching a pass even if we were quite drunk. The Saints more or less have to either divert an enormous number of resources to wrapping up Julio, which frees up everyone else, or risk that he will flambe the poor sucker who has to draw him in one-on-one coverage. Either way, Atlanta makes out well.
Cameron Jordan versus Ryan Schraeder and Chris Chester
Schraeder has been one of the league’s better right tackles for a couple of seasons now, so when I point out that Cameron Jordan kind of took his lunch a year ago, understand the implications of that. Jordan can work inside or outside, which means he’ll sometimes draw Chris Chester, who is significantly less proficient at pass protection at this stage of his career.
Either way, Jordan is unquestionably the biggest threat on defense for New Orleans, which will need to put pressure on Matt Ryan to negate the weakness in their secondary. Jordan will have to be held at bay for Ryan to continue his extremely successful start to the 2016 season, and it’ll largely fall on Chester and Schraeder to do so.
The Falcons defense versus tight ends
I know what you’re thinking. Coby Fleener and Josh Hill haven’t been huge parts of the Saints’ offense, so perhaps the Falcons will be safe this year?
This ignores, of course, that the Falcons have continued to be inept against tight ends. The Saints also used Ben Watson to great effect a year ago, torching the Falcons over the middle of the field. Fleener hasn’t looked comfortable in the offense and is probably overrated after he had Andrew Luck force feeding him passes over the last few years, but he’s still a quick, athletic tight end, and the Falcons still don’t have any truly inspiring options to cover him. We’ll hope they can find a way to slow this part of the Saints’ passing attack down.