I can’t say I’m looking forward to the Falcons playing the Saints, given how lopsided that rivalry has been in recent years, but the intrigue was certainly there. How would the Falcons look under a new coaching staff against Sean Payton? Would Kyle Pitts prove difficult to stop for New Orleans? And perhaps most intriguingly, what would this Falcons team face in Jameis Winston, who often tormented them in Tampa Bay but would now be helming the New Orleans offense?
I was not necessarily looking forward to finding that out, but it was one more interesting facet to one of the most heated rivalries in sports. It now sounds like we’re not going to get to find that out, as Winston suffered an ACL injury that will end his 2021 season.
#Saints QB Jameis Winston does, in fact, have a torn ACL, source said after the MRI. He is out for the season. There is also damage to the MCL.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2021
This is a big blow for the Saints and a devastating injury for Winston, who bet on himself as a backup in New Orleans last year and earned a starting job this year. If he is done, he leaves behind a 14/3 touchdown/interception ratio and some quality wins for the Saints, who are now within striking distance of the Bucs in the NFC South. The Saints will be a lesser team without him and Winston unfortunately will have to work his way back from the injury before he can land his next big payday, which seemed like a virtual lock to be on the way given his performance to this point in the season.
From our perspective, the Falcons also go from knowing exactly who they’ll face under center to some real ambiguity.
As a suddenly resurgent Tua Tagovailoa and scramblin’ Sam Darnold proved, the Falcons can’t consider facing any particular quarterback to be a fortunate break for them. That’s why Trevor Siemian, who was solid enough against the Buccaneers, doesn’t feel like he’ll just roll over and lose this game for New Orleans. It’s why the possibility of Taysom Hill returning, which appears to be on the wind, is downright unsettling. This Falcons team just allowed 66 rushing yards to Darnold and hasn’t gotten a sack over the past two weeks, and the pressure simply wasn’t there against Darnold for most of the day Sunday. Add in having to potentially prepare for two very different quarterbacks and this matchup, which already was not going to be a fun one with this team having to travel to New Orleans, has an entirely new wrinkle.
We’ll see who starts for the Saints, but if Hill is healthy we could see both players in the lineup. We’ll just have to hope the Falcons offense finds its footing again, and that the Falcons defense can turn it up several notches against a Saints team that is still pulling together quality performances on offense despite a weak-seeming supporting cast.