Sean Payton sports a pristine 7-1 record in 4 seasons as a coach against the Atlanta Falcons. Last year, the Saints swept the Falcons in two close games. The talk of the town the last two years has been that Atlanta is the biggest threat to the Saints' reign atop the NFC South. Atlanta has a boatload of talent and potential, but are they finally ready to prove they can hang with the Saints and stake their claim as a contender in the NFC? This game in the Dome will prove a lot.If you go back to the two matchups these teams had last year, the Saints won 35-27 at home, and 26-23 on the road. Both games were highly contested, with the Saints coming up with the goods in the 4th quarter. Both teams were neck in neck for most of the game, but the Saints closed both contests much better. The second game was essentially a throw away, because Atlanta was operating without Matt Ryan or Michael Turner, and they started journeyman Chris Redman at quarterback. In both games Atlanta was able to move the ball effectively, especially in the first when Michael Turner ran for over 150 yards. Matt Ryan threw for 289 yards, and Chris Redman threw for 303. It's clear that Atlanta is capable of moving the football on the Saints and scoring points. The question is whether they can stop Drew Brees. In both games, Brees torched their defense repeatedly, while averaging just one turnover and one sack yielded per game. If history is any indicator, we should expect another shootout. Atlanta will hope the addition of Dunta Robinson will slow Brees down, if even just a bit. They'll also hope Michael Turner can have the same kind of success he had last year against the Saints, or the same success Frank Gore had last week.
The bottom line is this: Atlanta at times over the last few years has looked like an elite team. Last week's blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals was a perfect example of just how scary they can be. But the minute they look like they are ready to be called a top notch team, Atlanta has found ways to regress. The season opening loss against the Ben Roethlisbergerless Pittsburgh Steelers was a perfect example, to me, that this team is still not ready to go on the road and impress the league with a huge win. While there's not a huge amount of difference in terms of talent between the Saints and the Falcons, I believe there is one major difference. The Saints have a killer instinct. The Falcons do not. They're good, and they'll beat the teams they're supposed to beat, but my opinion is they're still not ready to win the big game and play with the big boys. They don't have what it takes to battle adversity and pull off the game no one expects them to win. The moment they have a chance to shine on the big stage, they fold. I believe that will be the case again on Sunday at the Superdome.
What do you think? Is Atlanta ready to turn a corner and prove they belong with the NFL's elite? Can they come into New Orleans and win this game?