Are you a fan of these Thursday night games or not? “No. Not really. The time after off is good, but the rush to get ready and get your body ready and all that stuff, I don’t think guys are too excited about it but the bottom line is that everyone does it. We play when we are told to play. We are going to go out there and we are going to play. We are going to play our best.”- Drew Brees
Drew Brees doesn’t like Thursday night games, and neither should Saints fans because of the precarious situation it puts their team in.
Unlike the Falcons, the Saints actually have to travel to play, which means they technically lose a day in their preparation while the Falcons have said day.
The most important thing I picked up on is that the Saints will likely have to reduce the volume of their game plan for the week, as told by Pete Carmichael.
"The shorter week, I think it's more about recovery for the players and being smart with what you do during the week," offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. "And maybe reducing the volume of what you're able to maybe put into a tradition game plan and just making sure the players are ready to go for Thursday night." - Pete Carmichael
This may not seem like much, but just last night I was watching a piece on the Saints involving Eric Mangini, and the first thing out of his mouth is that the Saints are difficult to prepare for because of the sheer volume of what they do.
Having to scale back that volume means the opposing defense that already has the advantage of playing at home (or do they considering they are begging for crowd presence) now has the built in advantage of possibly not seeing as much as they usually would from a Sean Payton offense on a standard week.
To me, it feels like the Saints will have to overcome a short week, playing away against a division opponent, and not having their usual tool box to win this game. Let’s discuss a few things they can do to help mitigate these disadvantages.
Sleight of Hand
The Falcons defense is predicated on speed. They are also well coached, so that should give insight into why I feel the reduction hurts us. It takes an already fast defense and allows them to play faster because they have less things to prepare for. Well, one way to combat that is to get that speed going in the wrong direction. It would seem logical that with all the attention Alvin Kamara has been getting, he’ll be the focal point, and the Falcons have the speed to contain him. Perhaps using Kamara as a decoy early will open things up for other guys (Michael Thomas) to make plays. Breaking out the fake Jet Sweep to Ted Ginn may be a good idea too!
Steal the Momentum
If there is one thing I know, it’s that these Falcons-Saints matchups usually come down to which team can capture the momentum and keep it. Take my word for it, crowd noise plays into that, and with Dan Quinn practically begging fans to “Rise Up” I see this as a chance to steal the momentum right from under the nose of their team and fan base. Home field advantage is the one distinct upper hand they should have Thursday, and they kind of don’t at the moment. I mean, let’s be honest, you might as well set up shop in their Mercedez-Benz Superdome like it’s ours....technically the name is <shrugs>.
Matt Ryan is good at identifying things pre-snap. He’ll break down coverage and blitzes based on what he’s shown and then push the ball exactly where he needs to go with it after the snap. Christian McCaffrey’s TD last week where he was left wide open is a check down that Ryan routinely finds. The Saints will need to converge on the Falcons receivers when they do make catches (and they will) on pinpoint throws from Matt Ryan. Their ability to tackle will also tell you about the energy of this team and if the short week affected them. If they come out sluggish, then it will likely correlate to okay effort, and tackling is very much about effort.
Player to Watch - Michael Thomas, WR
You #cantguardmike, and I don’t think the Falcons have the size in their secondary to contend with him all game. In two games against the Falcons last year, Thomas caught 17 passes for 227 yards and 2 TDs. While I realize the Falcons will be getting Desmond Trufant (Falsefant if ya nasty) back, he’s on the smallish side for a DB (listed at 180 pounds), and Thomas plays with too much strength not to win against him. If you have to keep things simple this week, there isn’t a more basic play that nets yards than the slant route to Thomas. I’m expecting MT and Brees to hook up early and often tonight.
Random Thought I: I wonder if Al-Quadin Muhammad will be active? Falcons are more of a 3x1 team, and I wonder if a 4-man rotation at DE (instead of Sheldon Rankins there) would be a benefit. Either that or Hau’oli Kikaha and Trey Hendrickson see their snap totals go up which makes perfect sense too.
Random Thought II: Saints have never lost a road game to the Falcons in any of Sean Payton’s winning seasons. As of 12/4, this is officially a Sean Payton winning season. IJS <Shrugs>.
‘Next game is the biggest game’ is typical coach speak and it rings true here. Because I’m a fan first, analyst second (unlike Rev) I’m going to pick the Saints to defeat the Falcons. I mean it’s FailClowns hate week anyway right? With that being said, there are enough things here working against the Saints that could result in a loss. Personally, I feel as though coaching will make the biggest difference this week, and I like our coaching staff > Falcons coaching staff without Kyle Shanahan.
My Prediction - Saints 21 Falcons 17 and at least 1 blocked punt or INT for a TD. - Who Dat!