The Saints open the season at home, thankfully, and will host the bitter rival Atlanta Falcons. It's been Falcons hate month(s), not Falcons hate week, but as the game nears we're definitely zeroing in our strong distate for the visitors. The Falcons had a quiet preseason that didn't showcase much in terms of their talent, much like the Saints to a degree. Here's how the Falcons look:
Matt Ryan is back with his now cap crippling salary and some nice weapons to surround himself with. It's odd, the Falcons on paper are a terrific offense and the Saints last year was horrific defensively, but the Saints defense always seems to do a decent job of slowing down this offense. Even last year at their worst, the two game swing against the Falcons had really good defensive moments. Tony Gonzalez is back at tight end in his final season, while Julio Jones and Roddy White remain the scary tandem at receiver. Steven Jackson is the new back, replacing Michael Turner, in what Falcons fans think will be a major upgrade. The Falcons also have a nice X factor change of pace back in Jacquizz Rodgers and a solid left side of their offensive line. If there's a weakness, though, it's the right side of their line and that's what the Saints will need to attack preferably straight up without blitzing. Cam Jordan, Junior Galette and company will have to do a good job exposing that. Matt Ryan get rid of the ball quickly and takes advantage of the size of his receivers to throw them open off the line of scrimmage quite often. The offense works to draw the defense in that way, along with their run game, to then beat you vertically with White and Jones' speed. The key to slowing down this offense is to shut down the run game, something the Saints have done well against this team in recent years. This will be no different. If the Saints can get the Falcons in obvious passing downs, they can get pressure on the right side. Losing Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure in the offseason was a hit for this offensive line which now has holes.
The Falcons 4-3 alignment has a decent front four, but gone is John Abraham's double digit sacking contribution. Replacing him is an aging Osi Umenyiora who is still dangerous but more containable than years past. The Falcons have talent in the linebacking core and secondary, but nothing amazing, and the Saints can expose the lack of experience at cornerback. Desmond Trufant, a rookie, is starting and the Falcons also have a rookie at nickel (Robert Alford). This will be an opportunity for Colston, Moore and Jimmy Graham to work the slot mercilessly. The Falcons are not great at stopping the run, and without Abraham they're not great at rushing the passer. With Dunta Robinson gone at corner they are even weaker. The Saints can move the ball and score points on their defense as long as they take care of the football and don't have a turnstile at right tackle as they did the last time these two teams faced.
Matt Bryant has been a little banged up in practice this week so we'll see if he's compromised at all, but he always seems to kick well against the Saints. He's made 21 of his last 22 attempts playing against the Saints, which is just a sickening stat. He's due for an easy miss if you ask me. Matt Bosher, the punter, was also extremely good last season. Jacquizz Rodgers is the kick returner and Harry Douglas is the punt returner. Those two should scare us because the Saints' coverage units have been atrocious for a while now. So basically any returner should scare us. Hopefully they get that corrected starting now, but no Courtney Roby doesn't exactly comfort me.