The New Orleans Saints (0-2) return to the Superdome after another disappointing last minute defeat. This week offers no breaks as the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) arrive with one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The keys to this week’s matchup will be a little different, as the 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome and the Gleason punt block will bring passion and determination to a team certainly lacking those for the last two weeks.
The Saints running game hasn’t been so much anemic as it has been vastly underutilized. After two games this season, the Saints are second to last in rushing attempts per game and bottom five in rushing yards per game. They have, however, become average in yards per attempt, averaging close to 3.7 yards per carry. This is a sign that more attempts could yield better results, especially in a tight game. Against a Falcons team that’s allowing 4.6 yards per carry, it will be important to get the run game going and stick to it, especially at the end of the game in hopes of finally closing out a contest with the win.
While running the ball more is most definitely a key to winning the game, the New Orleans Saints must not turn their backs on who they really are. The Saints live and die by the pass, and being efficient in the passing game while not turning the ball over will go a long way to defeating a very average Falcons team.
The defense will once again need to be opportunistic and come away with multiple turnovers. Getting the offense more possessions will only help to keep up with a high scoring, pass-happy Falcons offense. If the defense can win the turnover battle in front of a home crowd, the game could get out of hand very quickly and have the makings of a very fun experience for Who Dat Nation.
As well, Dennis Allen needs to understand that the three-safety set works, and until offenses begin to scheme against that he will need to utilize it more often to keep from having his defense beat deep by yet another All-Pro caliber receiver in Julio Jones.
The best position group on the Saints defense is by far the safety position. With key players like Kenny Vaccaro, Roman Harper, Jairus Byrd and second round draft pick Vonn Bell, it only makes sense to get as many of those guys on the field as possible. Vaccaro and Harper are well equipped at playing along the line of scrimmage basically as a blitzing linebacker and allowing Byrd and Bell to play a Cover 2 to be in a position to stop the deep routes employed by the Atlanta offense.
The Saints lost in Week 2 to the New York Giants because the special teams, with the exception of punter Thomas Morstead, was worse than terrible. Not only was there a blocked field goal due to absolutely poor blocking, but the return game was almost as ineffective. The team is averaging 9.5 yards per punt return and an abysmal 15.7 yards per kickoff return. These stats are unacceptable if the Saints are focusing on winning games. Cleaning up the special teams aspect of the team’s game plan will go a long way in winning a game that could once again come down to who has the football last.
The Bottom Line and Reality
The 2016 New Orleans Saints have backed themselves into a corner. They desperately need a win. Good news for the team is this week is at home 10 years to the day this franchise went from lovable losers to NFL contenders. The team will be ready and this one could get ugly quick for the Atlanta Falcons.
Final score prediction: Saints 24, Falcons 20