When you say Falcons and Saints people pay attention. That’s because over the course of many years the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have pretty much waged war on each other, each taking its turn at the top. In 2011 the Saints and Falcons will meet up again naturally, and this NFC South rivalry only looks to get better as both team have reached the upper echelon of the NFL, fielding highly competitive teams. Of course the 2011 Falcons and Saints matchup hinges on NFL games actually being played, but we’re taking the positive approach and writing this Falcons and Saints preview with the idea no disruptions will occur.
The Atlanta Falcons have been built by Head Coach Mike Smith to be a ball control team. Opponents will get a heavy dose of Michael Turner every time out. This formula proved successful against the Saints when Atlanta came to the Superdome in Game 3 of the 2010 NFL season. While New Orleans had their chance to win, it was obvious at the end that the Falcons and Turner had plumb worn out a Saints defense that was already questionable against the run.
I expect the 2011 Falcons vs Saints contest to continue this trend. For the Saints to deal with Michael Turner, they’ll have to do better against the run. A big step was taken with this in mind when the Saints signed Shaun Rogers, a beefy defensive lineman who seems custom built to plug holes in the middle. Most draft analysts also expect the New Orleans Saints to add quality depth against the run by drafting either another defensive lineman or an outside linebacker. I’m leaning towards the latter.
The Atlanta Falcons will once again have to contend with Drew Brees and in 2011 I expect every team to have a more difficult time than they did in 2010. The New Orleans Saints should have a healthy set of running backs, something they lacked last season. That alone should result in more time for Brees in the pocket, and gives the Saints the ability to more easily control the clock in tight games. Throw in a defense that’s improved against the run and the Atlanta falcons will have their hands full keeping up with New Orleans.
Overall, the Falcons and Saints should provide another set of highly competitive games, contests that have a major role in determining who wins the NFC South. Whether the Falcons or the Saints have the edge is debatable, but I personally believe New Orleans will see a return to the style of the 2009 Saints, where the offense creates big plays and the defense plays with a swagger and creates turnovers. The ability to either score in big bunches, or grind it out with a running game and short passing game, gives New Orleans the one up over Atlanta.