It’s hate week. The Falcons will be traveling to New Orleans to take on their archrival Saints coming off a disappointing home loss to the Carolina Panthers. New Orleans has already lost their starting QB for the rest of the season and Taysom Hill is still a question mark while in the concussion protocol. Will Trevor Siemian lead them to a home division win? Let’s take a look at the matchups.
In the trenches
Despite potentially losing Andrus Peat for the rest of the year, the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football. Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are dominant on the outside with James Hurst and Erick McCoy being steady on the interior. Cesar Ruiz is the weak link in this unit and is probably someone the Falcons should try to go after consistently.
The Falcons defensive front is almost completely ineffective. Grady Jarrett is still getting it done, but he needs help. Guys like Steven Means and Tyeler Davison aren’t cutting it. Marlon Davidson has not taken the step forward we hoped he would and Ade Ogundeji shows flashes but has yet to deliver for more than a couple of plays per game. Atlanta misses Dante Fowler badly and until he returns, you can all but write-off this unit ever getting consistent pressure on the QB.
This isn’t even close. As good as Grady is, he can’t beat 5 guys single-handedly (even though he’ll try).
The skill positions
This assessment will depend on what you think of Trevor Siemian. With Jameis Winston out and Taysom Hill an unknown for Sunday, Siemian is the likely starter. He is career backup that has failed to produce consistently good performances as a starter. Sean Payton will likely lean heavily on his running game with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara carrying the offense. Even without slant-meister Michael Thomas on the field, the Saints also have a nice group of receivers with Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway both getting it done. Sean Payton has done a good job of selling his soul to the dark forces of the universe to keep a talented offense on the field.
Right now, only one player on the Falcons defense has earned his pay consistently: second year corner A.J. Terrell. To date, he still has not allowed a single reception in man-to-man coverage. He’s at the point that opposing QBs are beginning to just look the other direction. Fabian Moreau has played better recently and Avery Williams has done fairly well filling in for Isaiah Oliver in the slot. Foye Oluokun and Deion Jones have had erratic seasons, but Deion has played well when covering Alvin Kamara in the past. Erik Harris is having a good season while backfield partner Duron Harmon is in the opposite camp. Jaylinn Hawkins has been eating into their snaps with each passing week.
A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett need help. Other guys need to step up. While this matchup could be close because of Trevor Siemian, the nod still goes to the Saints because of just how poor this defense has played for most of the year.
Yeah, I hated writing this but the facts are what they are. That said, division games can often go sideways (Atlanta beating an undefeated Panthers team in 2015 for example). While I certainly hope that happens here, there’s no way I’d put money on it.