We’ll begin a series of opponent preview posts for the New Orleans Saints opponents in 2018. To start, we’ll begin with that team we all love to hate, the Atlanta Falcons. Our pal Jeanna Thomas of The Falcoholic took some time to give us Saints fans the scoop on our NFC South rival.
Week 3: @ the Atlanta Falcons; Week 12 vs the Atlanta Falcons
What were the biggest additions and/or subtractions (not via the draft) to the team’s roster from last year?
The Falcons’ biggest losses this offseason were Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe, and it left the defensive line -- already in need of depth -- at a deficit heading into the draft. You could make the argument that wideout Taylor Gabriel, who had a breakout 2016 season with Kyle Shanahan at the helm, was also a major loss, except Gabriel’s production in 2017 suffered because it seemed like Steve Sarkisian didn’t know how to use him effectively.
What was the biggest surprise move the team made - or didn’t make - this offseason?
It was definitely the decision to draft Calvin Ridley in the first round. Wide receiver wasn’t a pressing need, but Ridley gives the Falcons speed and pristine route running and should instantly make life easier for both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. I thought the team would add a wideout in the draft, especially with Gabriel off to Chicago in free agency. I didn’t think they’d use a first-round pick on one of the best receivers in the draft. I didn’t love the move at first, but I’ve enthusiastically come around on it.
What is the biggest storyline heading into Week 1?
It’s the same as the biggest storyline at the moment: How will this holdout impact Julio Jones on the field? I’m not terribly concerned about it, but timing and chemistry are things that need work each offseason, and it may be a factor for the Falcons, especially early in the year. I’d say the second most pressing storyline is just what the offense will look like in general. Sark’s essentially been handed the keys to a Maserati with talent like Matt Ryan, Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield, and a great offensive line, and last season he drove it like it was a damn Pinto. So much is riding on an improvement there, not just in how he uses the talent at his disposal, but also in his ability to develop as a play caller who can anticipate defenses more effectively. If he can’t, this will probably be his last season in Atlanta.
What is the outlook for the team? Are the playoffs in sight?
The Falcons have made the postseason in each of the past two years and they did make moves to get better this offseason. I’ll be surprised if they don’t make the playoffs. But they do have a difficult schedule, especially early in the season, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles on the docket in Week 1 and a tilt with each NFC South rival within the first few weeks of the season. I expect the Panthers and Saints to be roughly as competitive as they were last year, when they and the Falcons all made the postseason. Atlanta has its work cut out for it this season.
Final answer: what’s your prediction for the team’s final record?
I’m going to go with an educated guess of 10-6. I think that’s attainable, but I don’t know if that result will guarantee a postseason bid. We’re all hoping for a step forward from Steve Sarkisian, but will it be enough in a competitive division and with teams like the Eagles and the Steelers on the schedule? I hope so, but it’s not going to be an easy road.
A big thanks to Jeanna for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you check out her work and the rest of the good folks at The Falcoholic for tons of Falcons content, including great training camp coverage from none other than Jeanna herself. You can follow Jeanna on Twitter @JeannaThomas, the Falcoholic @TheFalcoholic, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.
So what says you, you unbiased Saints fans? Do the Saints sweep the tough divisional series? Do they get swept themselves? Or maybe it’s the typical season split - but will the win came at home or on the road? Vote in the poll. Explain in the comments. And make sure you also check out DraftDividends.com, a website for a new book I’m writing currently titled Draft Picks and Dividends: A Fantasy Football Player’s Guide to Understanding the Stock Market.
How will the Saints fare against the Falcons in 2018?
This poll is closed
Sweep the dirty birds!
Get swept :(
Win on the road, lose in the Dome
Lose on the road, win in the Dome