When Drew Brees went down with a thumb injury earlier this year, many fans and analysts wondered if it would take the Saints out of the playoff race. At 7-1, New Orleans is in firm control of the NFC South and are getting their legendary QB back. At 1-7, the Falcons are one of the worst teams in the league. Can they upset the Saints in their own home? Let’s take a look at this matchup.
In the trenches
Bluntly, the Falcons defensive line is decent against the run and an abomination when it comes to impacting opposing passers. Grady Jarrett is an elite talent and one of the best at his position, but he can’t do it alone. Tyeler Davison is a quality run stopper but past these two guys, the quality drops off dramatically.
Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley aren’t getting to the QB regularly or at all, and the same is true of guys further down the depth chart like Adrian Clayborn and Allen Bailey. This is a unit that inspires no confidence when it comes to pressuring the opposing QB.
Unfortunately for them, they’re going to face one of the best offensive lines in football. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are arguably one of the best bookend tackle duos in the league. The middle isn’t as highly ranked, but Erik McCoy and Larry Warford are playing well overall. The lone weak spot is Andrus Peat at left guard. These guys protect the QB and establish the run better than almost any unit in the league.
Yeah, it’s not close. One of the worst defensive fronts going against one of the best offensive lines. We need some serious black magic to flip the script on this match up.
The skill positions
Things don’t get much better here. The Falcons secondary is atrocious. Desmond Trufant is having a down year and while Isaiah Oliver is slowly improving, he’s still prone to getting beat. Rookie Kendall Sheffield has shown flashes of being good, but those are just flashes. Ricardo Allen and Damontae Kazee are both struggling badly, especially compared to previous years. At linebacker, Deion Jones is still playing well, but not at his normally very high standards. DeVondre Campbell is having an awful year while Foye Oluokun is playing decently, but just isn’t getting very many snaps. As bad as the defensive line is, this unit may be just as uninspiring.
The Saints have Drew Brees back. While he may be in the twilight of his hall of fame career, he’s still able to play at a very high level. Michael Thomas is one of the top receivers in the league but the depth after him falls off a bit, with Ted Ginn Jr. and Austin Carr being uninspiring options. If Alvin Kamara plays, he’s a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Latavius Murray is having a good year in this offense as well. Of course, it’s all driven by demon-coach Sean Payton, who sold his soul to the devil years ago in exchange for his offensive playbook.
This one isn’t close, either. Rinse and repeat.
This is no surprise, but the Falcons horrid defense does not match up well against the Saints offense. Yet, here’s the thing about rivalry games - they rarely live up to the script. It wouldn’t shock me at all if this Falcons defense suddenly showed up. I’m just not banking on it.