Although they are playing at home, the New Orleans Saints are far from a lock to win their Sunday contest against the Atlanta Falcons. In a place were they once seemed invincible, the Saints have suddenly become a liability at home. Here are five reasons why I think the Saints could lose tomorrow afternoon, while Jeanna Thomas gives us five reasons why she thinks the Falcons could indeed win and extend the Saints' home misery.
Why the Saints Will Lose
1 - Fool Me Once...
The 2014 New Orleans Saints have actually fooled us twice already. After a disastrous 1-3 start to the season, New Orleans clawed its way back to a 4-4 record by winning consecutive games against the Packers (44-223) and the Panthers on the road (28-10). Looking poised to hit their stride, the Saints proceeded to win their next three games, all at home.
The second trickery came after the Saints went limping on the road at Pittsburgh and dominated the Steelers, leading 35-16 before Pittsburgh score a pair of "prevent defense touchdowns" to make it look closer. New Orleans then came home and once again, looked to build on its success, only to get crushed 41-10 by the Carolina Panthers.
After their impressive road-victory over the Bears (despite Chicago's terrible overall play) the Saints once again have a chance to seize the opportunity to ride momentum into the playoffs. Alas, if recent history is any indication, the Saints will lay an egg tomorrow and fall flat on their face in the Superdome.
2 - The Legion of Whom
This is how Reid Gilbert, a Saints fan, described New Orleans' "new and improved" secondary during the Monday night game in Chicago. With the likes of Jamarca Sanford, Terrence Frederick and Pierre Warren, the Saints might as well be trotting out insurance salesmen and office clerks to defend against Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas. Matt Ryan is likely to throw for about 500 yards tomorrow afternoon. Prayer and probably alcohol will be Saints fans best friends when the Falcons have the ball on Sunday.
3 - No, Drew! Noooooooo!
If you're a Saints fan, raise your hand if you have screamed this while watching New Orleans play on TV this season, or listening on the radio, or constantly refreshing a frustratingly illegal stream online. Brees has thrown 12 interceptions, all of which seemingly went either for a touchdown or were returned in New Orleans' redzone. The "turnover gods" have forsaken the Saints this season and if they turn their back on Brees once again tomorrow, you can put this one in the bag for Atlanta.
4 - Where's that Home Gris-Gris Sha?
In 2013, the Saints were 8-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. They were also undefeated at home in 2011. In 2012, the "year that didn't really happen," New Orleans still managed to go 4-4 in the Dome with an absolutely horrendous defense. This year, the Superdome mystique has evaporated quicker than a bottle of Crown Royal during a Saints home game. New Orleans is 3-4 at home, having inexplicably lost four home-games in a row. Given how flat they've looked in front of the home crowd recently, there is a chance the New Orleans Saints could lay down again if the Atlanta Falcons jump on them early on Sunday the way it happened against Carolina. They'd have ended the season 0-5 at home.
5 - Win One For Smitty!
From all indications, Mike Smith's days as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons are numbered. However, his players have stayed engaged and despite their 5-9 record, the Falcons have been in almost every game this season. I fully expect Atlanta to come out fired up and try to sweep the Saints for the first time in Smith's tenure as the Dirty Birds head coach. The Saints will have to match the Falcons' energy from the opening kickoff; otherwise it could be a long day for New Orleans on Sunday afternoon.
In case you aren't convinced yet, Jeanna Thomas gives us five reasons why she thinks the Atlanta Falcons will walk out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a winner on Sunday afternoon.
Why the Falcons Will Win
As much as fans of both teams have reveled in the failures of the other this season, the reality is that these teams are pretty evenly matched this year. Given the fact that Falcons/Saints matchups are often hard-fought and come down to the wire regardless of the record of either team, this one really could go either way.
But I do see several reasons why the Falcons should win on Sunday. Here are the top ten reasons Atlanta will take the victory in the Super Dome on Sunday.
1. The Saints have been inexplicably terrible at home of late, most recently getting blown out by the Panthers, who are truly not a very good football team. While the Falcons have historically struggled to win in the Super Dome, those were different times. The Saints are not the dominant home team they once were.
2. Drew Brees has been more mistake-prone this season. Atlanta's secondary has been pretty opportunistic, and if Brees et al make mistakes, they will be prepared to take advantage of those opportunities.
3. And offensively, the Falcons have a ton of receiving talent, presenting a mismatch for the Saints' makeshift secondary. If Julio Jones is even remotely healthy, he'll eat those guys alive. Roddy White has plenty left in the tank, and Harry Douglas is a very solid third receiver. Devin Hester has big-play potential, too. The Saints defense gave up 448 yards through the air the last time these teams met.
4. Falcons strong safety William Moore (you may remember him from his performance in Drew Brees' five-interception game in Atlanta in 2012) is listed as questionable, but based on his practice status this week and what I personally observed, he should be on the field and ready to go. Moore's energy and leadership makes a fundamental difference for the Atlanta defense. They are a much better unit with him on the field.
5. All criticism of Mike Smith aside, he has not lost the Falcons' locker room. Players like and respect him, and they continue to buy into Smith's approach. The players know that a loss on Sunday is the final nail in Smith's coffin. Falcons' players are also so ready for this game. The energy in the locker room has been really different this week, in a positive way. Essentially, this all comes down to the players executing on Sunday, and they're extremely focused and prepared to win.
How the game will play out remains to be seen, but there are certainly reasons for concern if you're a Saints fan. Here's hoping that the "Good Saints" show up from the get-go in the Superdome tomorrow afternoon.
What do you think? How do you think this one will go?