NFL on Sling: Falcons vs. Saints in NFC South Battle

Sep 26, 2016 by Scott Ross

(All times Eastern, starters subject to change)

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-2)
8:30pm ET Monday on ESPN

Matt Ryan is off to a nice start in 2016, second in the league with a 72.6% completion percentage, second in yards at 730, second in TDs with 5, and first on yards per attempt at 10 – the man is a walking 1st Down, for heaven’s sake. But for all that firepower, the Falcons are 1-1, having suffered a Week 1 loss in which running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman combined for 42 yards on 19 attempts, and the Falcons hurt themselves with a red zone penalty in the 2nd quarter. Freeman and Coleman stepped up last week against Oakland, with 93 yards on 17 carries, and 46 yards on 12 carries, respectively, as the Falcons won 35-28.

For all of Ryan’s success, he desperately needs some help from his defense, which has been awful against the pass, having allowed the 3rd-most passing TDs – 7 – despite having played 1 less game than everyone else (except the Saints), plus they have the fourth-worst turnover percentage at 4.3%, have recorded just 1 sack, and allowed a 74% completion percentage. This is the kind of defense that surely has Saints QB Drew Brees licking his chops.

And Brees could use some help, frankly, as his Saints have played just well enough to lose each of the last two weeks, falling to the Raiders 35-34, and then to the Giants 16-13. It would be hard to choose which one felt worse. They blew an 11-point lead over the Raiders, who scored a pair of TDs and 2-point conversations in the final 8:26, the last score coming with just :47 seconds on the clock, while against the Giants they had a field goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown to fall behind 7-0.

The Saints defense isn’t a lot better than the Falcons, but it is better, with All Pro end Cameron Jordan having averaged 10 sacks a year over the past three seasons, and they rate better than Atlanta against both the pass and the run.

A future Hall of Fame QB with a shaky defense at home against a pretty good QB with an atrocious defense? Take the Saints, and the four-way tie at 1-2 in the NFC South.

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Pro Football Reference.

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