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Falcons @ Saints, Key Match-ups - Lattimore vs Who-lio?

The decaying Saints are defending the dome with sights to squash the ascending Falcons

NFL: Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints get their second game at home in two weeks. They are tasked with battling an Atlanta Falcons squad that has won 3 out of their last 4 matches. We know the Saints are loaded and coming off a seven game win streak, but the question is: Can the Saints win a divisional contest without their archangel at QB, Drew Brees? We will see.

Outside of Drew Brees, the Saints pose an elite threat for a losing Falcons team. They maintain the MVP candidate Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas isn’t in sync thus far, and Taysom Hill might be the most underrated player in the league.

With the surplus of talent for the Saints, where are the key match-ups for them to win? Let’s find out.

Marshon Lattimore vs Julio Jones

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This match-up may seem obvious, but it’s a serious swing of implications. When Marshon Lattimore plays horrid, they lose to the Packers, Raiders, and should’ve lost to the Chargers after the catch above was made. When Lattimore is feeling it, and prepared—they blow out one of the best teams in the league—Tampa Bay.

Lattimore will have his hands full in Week 11. He’s not facing a WR that’s a step below Julio and almost took his head off, he’s facing Julio-over and over, again. Lattimore has stated before that Julio was the best WR he’s faced in his career.

It’s not a good combination that Lattimore is arguably having a career-low season and he’s facing arguably the best WR in football, who often feasts on the Saints secondary. The most important part of Julio Jones being stalled, isn’t because the defense won’t make their plays, but rather that Saints aren’t ready to get in a shootout with Winston in his first game.

Hayden Hurst vs Malcolm Jenkins

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints need to play better against tight ends. Period. They are the worst defense against tight ends in touchdowns allowed. They’re hoping LB Kwon Alexander can help heal the wounds, but it seems clear that Safety Malcolm Jenkins will still get the heavy work of being 1 on 1 against TEs.

Jenkins will be tasked with covering Hayden Hurst. Hurst may be the most athletic TE that they covered since Darren Waller in Week 2—which was the worst performance against a TE that I’ve seen from the Saints.

In last week’s game, the 49ers TE Jordan Reed had a succesful game with 5-62 in his first game back to action. In the Buccaneers game a week before that, Tom Brady eyed Gronkowski on the first series, but Jenkins got away with a questionable holding of Gronk’s jersey. They also were about to give up a touchdown to but thankfully he dropped it with Demario Davis in coverage.

For some reason, Arians decided to feed Antonio Brown over exploiting the Saints weakness.

All in all, the Saints can’t let Hayden Hurst win his match-ups early and often. If Hurst replicates Waller’s success against the Saints, the Saints secondary will be facing that production from the TE spot, along with Julio and Ridley at WR.

Marcus Davenport/Trey Hendrickson vs Jake Matthews

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In last year’s Thanksgiving match-up, we were given a 4-sack performance out of Cameron Jordan. For whatever reason, it doesn’t appear that we will be seeing that in 2020 against the Falcons. Jordan has had flashes, he’s created a lot of sacks, but he’s lost a step. I personally thought Jordan would experience this drop-off last year, but it came this year.

Jordan is built of technique and power (combo of strength and speed). A slight decrease in speed/strength can have a serious decline in somebody built on his craft and being a workhorse in his career. With this all being said, the Saints need Marcus Davenport/Trey Hendrickson to step up in this match-up.

Marcus Davenport is one of PFF’s top pressure players since his arrival to the season. Meanwhile, Trey Hendrickson has a team high: 7.5 sacks on the year. The pass rush may need to bail out the secondary if Julio has his normal routine against the Saints. Thankfully, the Saints are prepared—even without a prime Jordan.

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