Gameday! I'm not sure how I feel about having a game on a Thursday night, but it sure makes the end of the week more exciting. The Saints will attempt to take the season sweep on the Falcons today and run their record back to .500 in the process. The Falcons are 10-1 on the season and I think we all know who that one loss belongs to. The two teams know each other well so there won't be many surprises… this game will be more about who executes better. Here are the five things I'm looking for.
1. Can the Saints withstand the Falcons' initial surge?
I full expect the Falcons to give the Saints their best shot, given the history and the trash talk that ensued after the Saints' last win. I think they'll come out of the gate possessed and eager to put up points quickly, which in my opinion means they'll take some risks early. I think it's important for the Saints to avoid going down a couple scores early on the road like they did in the previous game against the Falcons at home.
2. How does the right tackle position hold up?
That was one of the five things I was looking for last week and it remains an area of major concern. Signs point to Zach Strief being back to reclaim his starting spot, which would be huge, but I think it's safe to assume he won't be coming back at anything close to 100%. If he can't go, then 4th stringer William Robinson who's been with the Saints for about 7 days this season would get the start. Either scenario is far from ideal, though I do feel slightly better having a diminished Zach Strief in there. That position needs to hold up for the rest of the line to play well, for Jimmy Graham to get more playing time, and for the offense to be more efficient.
3. Does Pierre Thomas get touches?
Pierre Thomas got one touch last week which is just absurd. He's in my opinion the best back of the four and he was phased out of the gameplan last week. My hope is that was just a matchup situation against the 49ers and he'll see more action against the Falcons. Personally I'd rather see Chris Ivory and PT getting the majority of the touches (over Sproles and Ingram) at the moment. Right now I think Thomas and Ivory give the team the best chance at winning, so I'd like to see them both involved more.
4. Can the Saints slow down the Falcons' playmakers?
Last time these teams faced off the Saints completely shut down Michael Turner, which was fantastic. I have a feeling they will come out seeking to do the same. That mindset came at the expense of getting gashed for huge chunks of yards in the passing game, though. The trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez all put up big time yardage against the Saints' secondary as Matt Ryan threw for a career high number of yards. I'm looking for the Saints secondary to come up with a better effort on the back end to at least slow these guys down a little.
5. Does Brees have enough time to expose the Falcons' backup corners?
Atlanta's starting corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel were both banged up last week. Samuel hasn't practiced all week long and he's listed as questionable, so I don't think he'll play. Robinson has been limited all week and he's listed as probable. So Brees will definitely face a diminished secondary, but Jimmy Graham may not have as huge of a game as last time with Sean Weatherspoon back. So I think there's an opportunity for Colston, Moore and Henderson to expose the Falcon corners in this one, IF Brees has enough time to wait for their routes to develop. Remember the Saints gave up 5 sacks on Sunday so I'm expected the offensive line to respond with a much better game.