Week 15 is here, and we’re in the midst of Hate Week Part 2. The Atlanta Falcons (5-8) take on the New Orleans Saints (4-9) in a battle of two teams that are somehow still in playoff contention with four games to go. That’s because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lead the division with a 6-7 record. If the Bucs were to lose this week (which, against the Bengals, seems likely) and the Falcons were to win, they’d be tied atop the division once again.
Here at The Falcoholic, we like to think we keep you all incredibly well-informed on all things Falcons. We’re not nearly as diligent in covering the Saints, so I’ve once again enlisted the help of a New Orleans expert: Tina Howell. Tina is a writer over at Canal Street Chronicles, SB Nation’s site for all things New Orleans Saints.
I brought five questions to Tina to try to get a feel for how the Saints have fared since we last saw them all the way back in Week 1. There’s been a QB change to Andy Dalton, and the defense has never quite gotten out of it’s early-season slump. Read on for Tina’s answers.
Q1. The Saints are in a bit of an offensive slump, scoring over 20 points and going over 300 total yards just once in the past five games. What seems to be the biggest issue for New Orleans offensively?
Tina Howell: Poor play calling and the wrong quarterback starting. Which leads us to your next question...
Q2. It sounds like Andy Dalton will be the starter this week despite Jameis Winston’s return to health. How do Saints fans feel about the QB situation in New Orleans?
Tina: Fans are VERY unhappy about a lot of decisions made this season but obviously, the QB situation is the biggest. Dalton taking over when Jameis was not healthy enough to play was understandable but to hear him say he is ready to go yet still riding the bench is perplexing. When healthy, statistically Jameis has the better numbers. When we still had a shot at the division and playoffs, you should want your best option on the field. Yet, Dennis Allen rolled the dice with Dalton, and lost repeatedly. So, the fans feelings are valid, for more reason than one.
Q3. New Orleans’ defense hasn’t been bad this year, but seems decidedly average. That’s a big change after several years among the NFL’s elite units. Who or what is responsible for the decline, particularly against the run?
Tina: I think it’s many factors... losing players, mounting injuries and Dennis Allen still trying to control all aspects of the team despite having 2 defensive coordinators. I think it all just took its toll.
Q4. Obviously, the Falcons weren’t lighting it up through the air with Marcus Mariota. With Atlanta turning to Desmond Ridder at QB, how do you feel about the Saints pass defense in this matchup?
Tina: I actually feel good about this matchup. The secondary has been playing well lately, Adebo and Taylor have really stepped up in the absence of Lattimore, who has been out a while but should be back this week. However, you should never overlook a rookie QB, especially given the Saints history against some of them.
Q5. New Orleans is currently a 4-point home favorite in Week 15. What’s your prediction for the Saints-Falcons rematch?
Tina: Games between the Saints and Falcons are always interesting and unpredictable. As bipolar as the Saints have been playing, who knows what could happen, but I have to think playing at home in dome against their biggest rival, the Saints show up Sunday. So, I’ll say 27-17 - Saints win.
Many thanks to Tina Howell for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow her on Twitter at @TheNoalGirl, and if you’re in the mood for a Saints perspective on things, follow Canal Street Chronicles at @SaintsCSC.