Usually when the Falcons face the Saints in November it is a much bigger deal. Both teams have been locked at the top of the NFC South for years now, with Tampa and Carolina popping their heads up every once in a while. This year is a little different. Atlanta is 8-0 with a commanding lead in the division. New Orleans, after a bizarre offseason filled with controversy, have limped to a 3-5 record.
Still, this game holds a lot of importance to both teams. Atlanta is essentially a lock for the playoffs, but they still have plenty of motivation to keep winning games. First off, until they lose a game, they are the best team in the NFL. They don’t want that first loss, no matter who it comes to. Coming from a bitter rival would sting just that much more. They also have to consider the first seed in the NFC. Yes, they are almost gauranteed first in their division, but not in the conference. They still face plenty of competition from the likes of San Francisco, Chicago, and even New York. A few slip ups and they could be looking at playing on Wild Card Weekend.
The Saints, however, need this game more than anything. At 3-5, playoffs look grim. At 3-6, they are almost completely off the table. A wild card team is likely going to have to win at least 10 games this season, meaning the Saints can only lose 1 more game for the rest of the year. Luckily for them, they are playing their best football now. After starting off the year 0-4, they have bounced back to win 3 of their last 4. The defense is still awful, but their offense is as good as it ever was. Well pretty close at least. They have scored huge points in all but one game in which Denver’s defense shut them down. They bounced back big to crush the Eagles last week. In that game they played their most complete game all season. The defense stepped up in the red zone to limit the damage after giving up a ton of yards. The offense was actually a balanced attack, mixing in the run into their dynamic passing game. Brees, was playing at a high level, just like always.
So what is going to happen Sunday? Well, it is hard to imagine the Saints D playing as well as they did last week. Atlanta’s offense is too good, and much more in tune than Vick’s squad. This one is likely to be a shootout similar to most of the Saints games this season. Atlanta has struggled to stop the run, but if the score is close, the Saints figure to rely heavily on the pass. It seems as though they only run the ball with a comfortable lead, which is why they did it for the first time last week. New Orleans needs this win, but they will have to fight hard to get it.