It is only Wednesday and the sniping has already began between the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and their legion of fans. After a few weeks of playing mediocre talent, the Falcons are looking to pick up their game as they take on the division rival Saints on Monday Night Football.
As if the sizzling rivalry was not enough to get these teams motivated to play on Monday, there are some playoff implications involved, which only adds to the trash-talk that is already going on between Falcons Nation and Who Dat Nation.
The Falcons clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and get Dome field advantage with the win. The Saints need a win (or a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to clinch a playoff spot and can yank the NFC crown from the Falcons if they win their next two games and Atlanta loses its next two games.
The first game between the two clubs ended up being a game for the ages. New Orleans missed a couple of field goals that would have won the Week 3 matchup. Matt Bryant’s 46-yarder sailed through the uprights with 1:55 left in overtime to give Atlanta the 27-24 win. Saints place kicker Garrett Hartley briefly lost his job after the loss, but has since regained the confidence of Saints coach Sean Payton.
If history’s any indication, expect another battle and another close one at the Dome.
The Falcons nearly pulled off the upset at the Dome last year, testing the Saints in what ended up being a 26-23 win for a New Orleans team that improved to 13-0 at the time. One year later, it is Atlanta with the winning streak, which the Saints will go marching in and try to eradicate.
Atlanta, which has won eight straight, hopes to make it nine on Sunday behind QB Matt Ryan. He just doesn’t lose at home. Ryan has won 15 straight at the Dome and is 19-1 lifetime in Atlanta.
Nevertheless, the Falcons must contend with Drew Brees and his potent air attack. The New Orleans signal caller leads the NFC with 4,122 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. But he’s also been prone to the INT, tossing a league second-worst 19 of them, one behind Eli Manning of the New York Giants.
The Saints will also have a healthy Reggie Bush for this one. He missed the clubs’ Week 3 matchup with a broken fibula. Although Bush has not been spectacular since returning from that injury, he’s still another threat that the Falcons must deal with.
Atlanta’s rushing defense has struggled a bit of late, allowing five scores and 531 yards on the ground over its last four games. In contrast, the Falcons allowed just three rushing touchdowns in their first eight games this season. Look for New Orleans to gain more than the 43 yards it did on Sept. 26 in the Big Easy.
On the other side of the ball, the league’s ninth-ranked defense will to try to shut down the air attack of Ryan and the ground heroics of RB Michael Turner. Turner scrambled for 114 yards and a score when the two teams met at the Superdome and has scored a touchdown against the Saints in his last four games.
Also look for a motivated Roddy White to catch passes with a vengeance. Saints fans have been taunting the Atlanta wideout since he responded to Trent Dilfer’s criticism about the team by calling New Orleans’ football team by its derogatory nickname, the Aints. White usually puts up good numbers when challenged.
It’s shaping up to be an epic Monday night battle folks, sit back and enjoy the show.
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