Several people within various media outlets are saying the Saints biggest threat within the NFC South will be the Falcons. My intent of this post is to compare the two teams as closely as possible in regards to scheduling, time off between games, and difference in opponents. I am going to start with week one ending with the conclusion of week 7 for this first duration.
The very first thing that I notice is the opponents that each team faces. Both teams face the same opponents except for one game. The first game that comes to mind has to be the first week matchups between both organizations.
Falcons at the Steelers Analysis:
Yes Big Ben is not playing due to his own stupidity. The one person that we are forgetting about is Troy Polamalu. For years the Steelers have built their dynasty around defense. With Polamalu receiving a season ending injury, greatly hurt the Steelers defense. Without Polamalu they were able to have a 20th ranked defense in total points allowed. Their second worst defensive category was against the pass, which ranked them at 16. Polamalu is the heart of the Steelers passing defense. When he gets back in the game both stats should decrease. In addition this is the first game of the season, and the first game he will be back. The Steelers also have good depth at QB. Big Ben's absence will not even compare to Polamalu's return.
Steelers Falcons win 20-17
Vikings at the Saints Analysis:
First and foremost if Bret Farve does not return, the Vikings do not stand a chance. Secondly, if he does return this turns into a bloody grudge match. Yes, there will be blood. Both offensive lines are good, but ours is better. The key to this game will rest on the shoulders of Bushrod. HIs ability or inability to contain Jarred Allen is critical to the game's outcome. This is just one matchup though and not an entire category. The Vikings running attack took a hit with the loss of Chester Taylor. As a replacement to this hole they hope Gerheart can fill the void. In retrospect the Saints rushing defense has improved this offseason, with the acquisition of Alex Smith, and J. Wilkerson. The Saints rushing attack has changed with the loss of Mike Bell, but this is the first game of the season, and Pierre Thomas should be healthy, thus the presence of Mike Bell does not play that much of a factor during this game.
The Defense for the Vikings is pretty stout, in comparison to the Saints. But in comparison to the Saints offense the Vikings lack one significant factor. That is a secondary to contain the Saints wide receivers. The Vikings were hoping that they would be able to acquire Patrick Robinson but they were not able to. Score one for Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. The Vikings secondary has received no upgrade from the offseason. Look for the Vikings to create mismatches with our new linebackers.
Prediction: Saints win 27 to 24.
Falcons Vs. The Cardinals analysis:
Kurt Warner has retired from the NFL. The QB corps of the Cardinals is mediocre at best .The secondary of the Cardinals is subpar. The Cardinals have lost Anquan Boldin who is a solid WR. However the presence of Larry Fitzgerald cannot be ignored. This will also be the season opener at home for the Falcons. The Falcons have significantly upgraded their secondary with the acquisition of CB Dunta Robinson. Look for these two players to match up with one another during the game. I will not be surprised to see the Cardinals focus more on their rushing attack in comparison to their passing game. B. Wells had a decent season as a rookie. Tim Hightower is solid at this position as well. However Michael Turner is a beast, when he is healthy. The Falcons overall are the better team with the passing game, rushing game and overall secondary.
Prediction: Falcons win 24-17
Saints at 49ers analysis:
The 49ers have significantly upgraded their offensive line with two 1st round draft picks, Anthony Davis, and Mike Lupati. In addition they have bolstered their secondary by drafting Taylor Mays at the FS position. The defense, yes the defense of the 49ers is quite impressive. They were 4th overall in points allowed category. In addition, they are 6th in the league against the rushing attack. However, their pass defense is ranked 21st overall. The 49ers are in the easiest NFC division. Do not let the 21st ranked passing defense fool you. The only decent QB last year in that division was Kurt Warner. If they were in any other division their passing defense would be even worse. Look for Drew Brees to shred the 49ers secondary. The 49ers do have the overrated Michael Crabtree, but he does not have anything on Tracy Porter or Jabari Greer. The Saints also have a longer week to prepare for the 49ers. The 49ers LB corps is extremely talented, with is most likely why they have a 6th rank defense vs. the run.
Prediction: Saints win 31- 24
Week 3 Falcons at the Saints.
As we all know the Falcons and the Saints matchup fairly well. The games are always close, most of our decided in the latter half of the 4th quarter. Matt Ryan has matured significantly. I would look for the Falcons to run their no huddle offense for several durations. The biggest matchup to consider will be our defensive line vs. Michael Turner. Turner had an injury free season in 2008 and managed 1700 yards (nfl.com). Keep in mind that the Saints have bolstered their rushing defense as well. As we all know the NFC is a heavy running division. I would actually give the Falcons the edge in this category. Both teams know each other especially well. The key to this game lies on attacking early and forcing the Falcons to pass the ball more so than utilizing their rushing game. Special teams will most likely be the deciding factor within this game. I believe the Saints are superior in this category with Morstead's punting abilities, along with Hartley's accuracy. In addition home field advantage cannot be over stated during a divisional game. I do not believe that the Saints can sweep the Falcons 2 years in a row. The Saints will also be coming off of a short week playing at the 49ers on their own turf. The Falcons in retrospect will have a full week off and a home game before challenging the super bowl champs.
Prediction: Saints win 27-24
Falcons Vs 49ers analysis:
I also look forward to this game. I do not believe it will be a blow out on either end. The Falcons will be coming from the New Orleans game tired giving their all. I believe these two teams will match up nicely. I would not be surprised if these two teams meet again in the playoffs during the wild card round. Atlanta offense in 2009 was ranked 16th, compared to the 49ers 27th. The 49ers should be more effective this year due to the addition of Lupati and Davis on their offensive line, but not too much. The 49ers have a 15th ranked defense that specializes in rushing. Their average rushing defense held teams to under 100ypg. This ranks their rushing defense an impressive 6th overall, with an average of 17 points allowed which corresponds with a 4th overall in the NFL. This puts the 49ers defensively in the same category as the Vikings Steelers or the Ravens picture.
Prediction Falcons win 20-17
Saints vs. Panthers analysis:
This is also going to be a good matchup. The saints will be coming off of a tough game vs. the Falcons, and maybe be a little beat up due to the defensive teams they have met so far in the season. Both teams will have an entire week to prepare. Interesting enough is the Panthers back to back home games in weeks 2-3. I would not be surprised if the Panthers have a 3-0 record at this time. At the very least they should have a 2-1 record when they face off against the Saints in the Superdome. Like with the Falcons, the main thing to worry about with the Panthers is their rushing attack. I know it sounds like a broken record, but the Achilles heel to the New Orlean Saints is the ability or inability to stop their opponents rushing attack. The Panthers last season had an extraordinary rushing attack that was ranked number 3 in the entire NFL. Their defense specializes against total yards allowed ranked respectively at number 4 overall. The panthers have also drafted Jimmy Clausen as potential franchise QB. He will be competing with Matt Moore a 4 year NFL veteran. I believe that the physicality of the Panthers will play a role in this game. Likewise with Falcons game the Saints will have to strike hard and fast.
Prediction Panthers win 24-21
Falcons at the Browns
The Falcons get the privilege of facing off against one of their previous NFC south QB rivals. Jake interception Delhomme. The Browns were nice enough to entice LB Scott Fujita with a multi-million dollar contract. The only thing remotely impressive about the Browns is their rushing attack, which somehow gained an average of 138ypg. The Browns this offseason have attempted to boost up their secondary by drafting CB Joe Haden and FS T.J Ward. They also landed Jimmy Clausen who might be the new face of the Browns' franchise, and even starting for them depending on how many interceptions Delhomme throws in the first 4 games. Also, the Browns, week 3-4 matchups come from division rivals, with week 3 taking on the Ravens away, and week four taking on Carson Palmer's Bengals. The offensive side of the Browns is too horrible to mention, so I will not. Expect the Falcons to shine brilliant on offense and defense.
Prediction: Falcons win 28-10
Saints at the Cardinals analysis:
What can I say about this matchup? Without Kurt Warner, the Cardinals do not stand a chance. Yes I said it. The Saints shredded the Cardinals defense in half last post season. I see no reason for this to change. Statistically this is match made in heaven for the Saints. However, you can never leave out Tim Hightower, Bennie Wells and Larry Fitzgerald. I will look for a similar matchup on Fitzgerald this time around as in the post season. I do not think Fitzgerald will remain scoreless this matchup compared to last years. He has become the go to guy with the loss of Anquan Boldin. If the Saints are healthy at this point in the season I see no problem with giving them the win. Drew Brees will have his way with the Cardinals' secondary. Enough said.
Prediction: Saints win 38-20
Falcons at Eagles analysis:
The Eagles have lost Mcnabb, but I do not think it is as a significant blow as everyone had made it out to be. I believe Kevin Kobb can and will be an excellent quarterback. The games last season in which he filled to role for Donavan Mcnabb, he did beautifully. Hopefully the Eagles have learned their lesson on NOT running the wildcat. Schedule wise the Eagles are coming from an away game against a defensive 49ers. The Falcons are coming off of their away game vs. the Browns. Look for the Falcons to play with a lot of confidence at this point at the season. Defensively the Eagles last season had a rushing defense that equates to 9th overall, averaging 105 ypg. In addition to being the number 12 team with total yards equating an average of 321ypg. By this time I believe Kevin Kobb will have his feet wet enough. Look for Philly in an upset.
Prediction: Eagles win 27-24
Saints at the Bucs analysis:
This makes the 3rd divisional game in 4 weeks. Unfortunate for the Bucs they get to enjoy their bye week on week four. Week five gives them a fairly good challenge with an away game at the Bengals. This marks the second away game for the Saints. During the offseason the Bucs were able to address several positions of concern, especially their defensive line. Gearld McCoy, the second best DT in the draft will make an immediate impact. In addition the Bucs were also able to draft Brian Price in the 2nd round. They also were able to get a second 2nd round pick with Arrelious Benn. They also have Cadillac Williams running the show for the last two seasons. Williams's seasonal production is statistically similar to our own Pierre Thomas. Josh Freeman heads the QB position will little NFL experience. Statistically the Saints clearly beat the Bucs, but it hardly the scenario when these two teams matchup. Personally I like this matchup more so than against the Falcons or the Panthers. The receiver corps that the Saints have coupled with great secondary will keeps the Bucs at bay.
Prediction: Saints win 27-17
Falcons vs. Bengals analysis:
Schedule wise this is a home game for the falcons following a two game road trip. The Bengals get to have their bye on week six. The Bengals will have an additional week to prepare for this matchup. One of the more interesting moves by the Bengals this offseason involves the acquisition of "Pacman" Adam Jones. He was once solid at his CB position, and it will be interesting to see what type of contributions he may have for the team. The Bengals have also drafted the number 1 tight end Jermaine Gresham. This will give Carson Palmer a middle man he can throw to, which was one of the number one needs for this Bengal team. They were also able to take defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is known as a beast in his collegiate career. The most impressive category within the Bengals is their defense. Last year the Bengals were 7th against the rush, 6th against the pass, 6th in total yards against. In addition, this impressive defensive unit ranked 4th in average YPG. This has the making of a great potential game between the two organizations. You might say I forgot to mention Chad oh no I change my name again Cinco. He could potentially be a factor, but I believe he is extremely overrated and a diva.
Prediction: Bengals Win 28-21
Saints vs. Browns analysis:
The Saints get to face off against two of their previous players, QB Jake Delhomme, and LB Scott Fujita. Schedule wise, the Saints are coming off of a two game road trip. The Browns, have decided to upgrade their secondary with the acquisition of Safety Taylor Mays, and CB Joe Haden. Neither of these two CB will able to compete with the accuracy of Drew Brees and his wide receivers. This should be a matchup in favor of the Saints. Defensively the Browns are horrible. Offensively the Browns are not so good too, but they do possess a decent rushing attack. If the Saints can shut down their rushing attack, this will turn into a very long game for Browns fans.
Prediction: Saints 38 Browns 10.
Falcons Week 1-7 record
Saints Week 1-7 record 6-1
There it is ladies and gentlemen. The Falcons have a bye for the 8th week, whereas the Saints are taking on the Steelers + Big Ben (maybe). I will pick this up later on the week. Feel free to comment and make suggestions on how the first 7 weeks will play out. I might post this on the Falcons' SB nation site to see what they think of this analysis.
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This FanPost was written by a reader and member of Canal Street Chronicles. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CSC and its staff or editors.