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Saints Facing Early Marque NFC South Match-Up Vs Falcons

Even for a long NFL season, each game is extremely important for 32 teams in the league. This Sunday will be an early marque NFC South rivalry matchup between the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) hosting the New Orleans Saints (1-1). Both teams are looking to continue their rebound losses from week 1 and make that push for the NFC South divisional title that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently on top of. The New Orleans Saints are usually efficient all-across the board on offense and defense. In week 1’s loss at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints defense to stop backup Quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald from scoring. The Saints would lose to the Bucs with a 48-40 score. The Saints almost lost to the Cleveland Browns because their offense couldn’t ignite a spark. The Saints were spared of an upset with a 21-18 victory because the Browns’ Kicker in Zane Gonzalez was horrendous with two field goals and two missed extra-points.

For the 5th straight season, the Saints have started out with an opening season loss including the last four seasons starting out at least 0-2. Last year, New Orleans did finish out the regular season with an 11-5 record including an NFC South divisional title. This Sunday, the Saints will need to have their entire team from the offense, defense, and special teams all play efficiently against this highly-talented Falcons team. There are many areas where the Saints must match systematically so they do not face a 0-2 record in the NFC South division race.

 

The Saints’ passing game must be the sole provider of points against this Falcons defense

With Running Back Mark Ingram still suspended for two more games due to PED substance abuse violations, the Saints are last (32nd) in the league in rushing yards per game (52.5). This isn’t a nod that RB Alvin Kamara isn’t ready for 1st string reps, but the Saints are trying out Kamara as an extra Receiver in the backfield. The Saints offense is ranked 6th in the league in points per game (30.5) and 4th in passing yards per game (322.5) but last week was a step back against the Browns defense. New Orleans is looking for more consistency in their passing game outside of WR Michael Thomas. In just two games this season, Thomas has accounted for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 receptions (an NFL record in two games). Despite Thomas being an elite Receiver in the league with elite Quarterback Drew Brees leading the helm, the Saints will need more impact from their other Receivers.

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Photo by; 247Sports

Falcons CB Robert Alford will try to lockdown Thomas along with a Linebacker or Safety in zone coverage. RB Alvin Kamara is the Saints’ 2nd top Receiver with 15 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown. WR Ted Ginn Jr. has accounted for 9 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown but experiencing issues with his knee. Tommylee Lewis is listed on IR due to a knee injury and may not be back until week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles. This will leave TE Benjamin Watson, WR Austin Carr, and rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith not creating much of an impact. With Alford and a zone player in double-coverage on Michael Thomas and a talented Falcons D-Line and Linebackers reading Kamara in the backfield, the Saints other Receivers will need to step up to create or continue consistency for the Saints passing game. This is a Falcons defense that ranks 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (218.5).

 

Saints Offensive Line must play a huge part to create a high-power passing game

One of the biggest reasons for the Saints’ high-power offense, besides Brees and Thomas, is their consistent and efficient Offensive Line. Pro Football Focus ranked the Saints O-Line as the top performing Offensive Line unit in the league after only two weeks. 2nd year Ryan Ramczyk has been a solid blocker for the Saints since he was drafted in the 1st round (32nd selection) of the 2017 NFL Draft. This season, however, has been a huge boost for the Saints’ blindside pass protector in LT Terron Armstead has been incredible for the offense. Last week against the Browns was one of his best performances so far this season as he was graded 86.3 against DE Myles Garrett in pass protection.

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Photo By; Saints News Network

The Saints Offensive Line will have a huge task ahead of them against this Falcons defense that is looking for more pass rush. The Falcons defense is tied for 19th in the league in sacks accounted for with 4 total sacks. Falcons DE Takkarist McKinley has accounted for 2 total sacks so far this season but he hungry to put his name into the category of the top pass rushers in the league. The Saints also need to watch out for DE/OLB Vic Beasley Jr. and DT Grady Jarrett, who will be lined up over Saints G Andrus Peat.

 

The Saints Secondary will need to focus on the Falcons multi-talented Receiver Corp.

The Atlanta Falcons have a talented Receiving Corp of their own led by WR Julio Jones. The Falcons also made the addition of former Alabama Crimson Tide WR in Calvin Ridley, who was drafted in the 1st round (23rd pick) in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jones and Ridley, along with Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper makes a great set of targets for Quarterback Matt Ryan. This Falcons offense has not reached their full potential since they played two aggressive defenses in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers so far this season. The Falcons are currently ranked 16th in passing yards per game (248.5) and 20th in points per game (21.5). In two games this season, Jones has accounted for 233 yards on 15 receptions (28 targets) but no touchdowns. This is likely to change as the Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is still looking to have Jones create more of an impact in the red zone.

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The Saints star Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is performing like one of the most talented coverage players in the league after winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. Lattimore can lockdown Jones without extra help, the problem when facing the Falcons passing game is the other tools they have. On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Ridley can set up long-yard receptions and Sanu is an excellent provider of yards and first-downs as an inside receiver. The Saints will need consistent coverage from all their Defensive Backs and Linebackers in coverage.

This season, the Saints have not accounted for the same impact as they did last season. In two games, the Saints defense is ranked 30th in points allowed per game (33) and 29th in passing yards allowed per game (325.1). Last year through the first two games of the season, the Saints were dead last in passing defense and fixed it’s to be an above average defense. There will be time for the Saints defense to fix itself in the passing game, but it starts with the deep game with the Saints other Cornerback in Ken Crawley. Lattimore is a great Cornerback because he can cover in any range of yardage, but Crawley is mostly efficient in short-yardage. He is a Corner who can get beat deep through fast and explosive Receivers in the Vertical route. If the Saints want more efficiency in defending the pass, the Saints will either need better deep coverage from Crawley as the sole coverage player or put a Safety like Marcus Williams in support for a Falcons Receiver like Calvin Ridley.

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