Welcome, you dirtiest of birds, to this week’s edition of Bird Watch. In this weekly segment, we will provide you a list of people, places or things which we have our eyes on.
Whether it be due to poor performance, a bad feeling or the need for an individual to RISE UP, the members of this list had better tread lightly, because we will be watching.
In the first 2016 installment of the annual two-part rivalry, the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons are heading to New Orleans for a clash with the 0-2 Saints.
Always a game circled on each team’s schedule, this rivalry has blossomed into one of the NFL’s most competitive with 11 of the last 15 contests being decided by a touchdown or less.
Atlanta currently holds a 49-45 lead in the series but have also lost 11 of the last 15 contests, including both meetings last season.
Let’s take a look at those who we need to watch closely to make sure the Falcons leave the Big Easy with a big victory.
Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan
As always, Ryan and Shanahan are the first entry on this list, but they are working their way off of it. So much talk this offseason was dedicated to which of these men would cave first and bend to the other’s will. Instead, it looks like they were able to meet in the middle and improve the entire offense as a result.
Matt has looked exponentially more comfortable thus far, which is vital for the Falcons moving forward. A well-executed game plan is of the utmost importance on Monday, so this duo will need to be on point once again.
Look, I have no doubt that Julio Jones is capable of putting up monster numbers even while injuries try to drag him down. I’m talking Jordan’s flu game, Isaiah Thomas’ sprained ankle game and Emmitt Smith’s separated shoulder season finale all rolled into one. I know he can do it, but I’d really not like to see it come to that point. This dude is the definition of a physical specimen, and it would be fantastic to see him make it through a game without another injury that concerns us for a solid week.
The pass rush
You’d think that eventually an opposing quarterback would trip over his own feet or he would fall down due to a strong breeze created by someone flying by him. At least that way, Atlanta could get a sack.
Atlanta’s punt unit
I’m just going to leave this right here.
The Falcons’ pass coverage
Against Atlanta, Drew Brees has been surgically effective. Dan Quinn has made a big effort to increase the speed on defense, but injuries have sapped some of that speed already this season, with De’Vondre Campbell definitely missing this one.
Atlanta linebackers and safeties who have nightmares of covering the Saints’ running backs (mandatory “I hate Pierre Thomas” moment), tight ends, and endless supply of slot receivers. Besides, let’s be honest, Drew Brees’ sweetest dreams probably include Atlanta’s pass rush.
Drew Brees and Sean Payton
The engineers behind several of Falcons fans’ most painful memories, Brees and Payton are public enemies No. 1A and 1B. Plus, I have good reason to believe that they paid Bobby Petrino to take the Atlanta job in 2007 and subsequently embarrass the franchise.
That’s right, Mercedes-Benz is officially on blast. How can a company that sponsors the Saints’ Superdome turn around and purchase the naming rights to Atlanta’s new stadium-sized camera lens? Either Mercedes-Benz is in collusion with the city of New Orleans or it is essentially the Drake of stadium sponsorship. Honestly, I’m not sure which one is worse.
New Orleans Saints
The Golden Cajuns are a delightful 0-2, but are undoubtedly looking to turn Monday night into a party worthy of Mardi Gras. Let’s hope the Falcons are ready.