We continue our series of articles previewing the Saints regular season opponents, now in Week 3 (and Week 17).
Week 2: vs the Atlanta Falcons
Week 17: @ the Atlanta Falcons
Make sure you check out Dave Choate and the rest of the guys over at The Falcholic who contributed this piece, listing all of the biggest additions/subtractions from the Falcons this offseason:
Notable free agent additions:
Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu, Courtney Upshaw, Derrick Shelby
Notable free agent departures:
They weren't really free agents, but the team parted ways with veteran SS William Moore, WR Roddy White and DT Paul Soliai.
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Strong safety Keanu Neal should start, LB Deion Jones is competing for the starting middle linebacker role, and fourth rounder De'Vondre Campbell is trying to earn the starting weakside linebacker spot.
Biggest offseason addition:
Without question, Alex Mack. Atlanta's interior line play was a liability last season, and having a center of Mack's caliber to anchor the line should make a tremendous difference. The Falcons paid Mack accordingly, too.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Almost certainly the rookie linebackers. That position group has been a weakness for the Falcons, and in Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell, Atlanta added the speed Dan Quinn needs to execute his defense effectively. Both have opportunities to unseat veterans and earn starting roles.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
The kicker competition! No, seriously. Matt Bryant has been with the Falcons for years, and he's won a lot of games for this team. Last year, he was significantly impacted by injury, landing on injured reserve toward the end of the season, and the Falcons will have an undrafted free agent rookie, Nick Rose, in camp who can challenge Bryant for the job.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
Devin Hester is continuing to recover from surgery to address the turf toe that sidelined him for a chunk of last season. Rookie Devin Fuller has been working through a hamstring injury. Right guard Chris Chester was dealing with a shoulder injury during OTAs and minicamp, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has some tendinitis in his knee that slowed him down this offseason.
The Week 3 matchup at home in the Dome is the ten year anniversary of the Saints return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. It's a prime time game, on Monday night, at home, and Steve Gleason is sure to be in attendance. Week 17, the final week of the regular season before the post season, the Falcons get to face to Saints in their building.
So what says you, you unbiased Saints fans? Will the Saints have a happy remembrance of the Gleason blocked punt? Or will the Falcons get their revenge? Can the Saints sweep the season series, will the Falcons sweep the Saints, or is a split the most likely outcome?