Falcons (Playoffs) - Saints (Not playoffs)
I feel very confident about this one.
Falcons 41 - Saints 27
The Falcons have a lot to play for on Sunday. There’s the first round playoff bye. There’s Matt Ryan’s MVP candidacy. There’s the exceptionally thin chance we keep Dave out of rehab in the near future. This is all fuel for what is always a fiery game against a hated division rival. Oh, did I mention it’s the Falcons last home game in The Dome until forever? Forget about empirical evidence, there’s no way this team doesn’t come out swinging for the fences. It will be interesting to see what iteration of the Saints offense shows up Sunday. Brandin Cooks has disappeared for long stretches in the second half of the season. (Just ask my fantasy team.) But Mark Ingram is still a bruising runner and the Falcons run defense is, in a word, “lackluster.”
Falcons 35 - Saints 31
The Falcons and Saints have met many times, and it hasn’t always gone well. This one should go well, because the Falcons are better. The end.
Falcons 38 - Saints 27
New Orleans has quietly beaten Arizona and Tampa Bay over the past two weeks. Drew Brees isn’t slowing down, as Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas are developing into top-tier wide receivers. With Mark Ingram still running hard, the Falcons defense is going to have their hands full. This is the perfect litmus test headed into a potential matchup against Seattle or Green Bay. As long as they block Cameron Jordan, it should be another field day for the offense. It will be on the defense to force at least one turnover or generate some pressure to get New Orleans off the field. It will be another close game, as it tends to be with this rivalry. Atlanta will pull away in the end.
Falcons 38 - Saints 35
I still don’t trust this young defense, especially against the best offense they will face this season. I really want them to prove me wrong, and I would love to see the Falcons generate more pressure against this Saints OL, but I’m skeptical. Ultimately, I think this game turns into a predictable shootout, with the Falcons getting the slight edge due to having a little more talent on defense overall. Either way, this season already feels like a huge success for the future.
Falcons 45 - Saints 7
Falcons drop another 40 burger on the Poodats in the last regular season game at the Georgia Dome and cruise to the number two seed in the NFC. Aints score on a garbage time 80-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks (fantasy purposes).
Saints 28 - Falcons 35
This is the most classic of trap games. Win, and the Falcons get some rest. Lose, and they’re still in the playoffs...but we’ll just be left with a sour taste in our mouths. The Saints are notorious for ruining everything, but they’re also not a great team. I wouldn’t necessarily call the Falcons a GREAT team, but as long as we play like we’ve been playing over the last few weeks, we should be able to handle whatever the Saints throw at us.
Falcons 42 - Saints 31
This game would typically terrify me but I continue to take comfort in the fact that the Saints defense is terrible. I don't expect the Falcons defense to stop Brees and the Saints, but I expect them to at least give them some resistance and maybe end a couple of drives early. The Falcons play well on offense no matter who is in/out so there isn't too much concern with scoring points, so it will come down to which defense can do anything to slow down the opposing offense--I’ll take the Falcons there. It feels good to have some legitimately meaningful football in Atlanta again.
Falcons 42 - Saints 32
Despite the difference in record between these two teams, the Falcons and Saints are notorious for playing each other close no matter what. Earlier in the season, Atlanta handed New Orleans a decisive defeat on Monday Night Football. Since then, Atlanta has improved on both sides of the ball. The Falcons are clearly the better team, but I still expect a close contest for the majority of the game. Atlanta scores late to put this one away, and Matt Ryan adds another impressive performance to his MVP resume. Plus, I’m going to this game, so they better win or I’ll be salty.
Falcons 38 - Saints 24
I’m going to be a bit bullish on the defense in this one, which might come back to bite me. The Falcons’ defense has steadily improved - yes, I know the level of competition has been suspect - and I think they will relish this opportunity. I think Vic Beasley has a nice game, and I think Keanu Neal will as well. Hopefully Matt Ryan puts all MVP debate to rest and gets into a nice rhythm early. With the former heroes of the Dome there to watch, I think Atlanta closes the regular season with a statement victory over this hated rival. Is there really a more fitting end?