The New Orleans Saints will battle it out against the Atlanta Falcons in the regular season finale. Although the Saints don’t control their own destiny, they need to win this game if they have any hopes of making the playoffs.
The Saints offense has been difficult to get a grasp on. They’ll have a couple good games in a row and get the fan’s hopes up, and right when you think maybe they figured something out, they’ll fall flat on their face.
In this week's matchup, the Saints are facing a pretty formidable defense in Atlanta. They rank 9th in the league, giving up 20.3 points per game while the Saints rank 14th in the league, scoring just over 22 points per game.
On defense, the Falcons are led by Jessie Bates who they signed in free agency to a monster deal. So far, that deal has been paying off. Bates leads the team in tackles (128), passes defended (11) and interceptions (6) while also posting by far the best coverage grade on the team (90.3). On the season, Bates has allowed just 286 yards and three touchdowns as the primary defender in coverage. In the first meeting between these two teams, Bates recorded 12 tackles and one interception, making his presence felt on almost every play.
Outside of Bates, the Falcons secondary hasn’t been all too amazing. Their best corner, AJ Terrell, has given up 479 yards and three touchdowns without recording an interception while Dee Alford, their second-best corner, has allowed 433 yards and three touchdowns without recording a pick. With Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed healthy, the Saints should be able to find some success against this Falcons secondary. They were able to pass for 300+ yards in the first meeting, but didn’t pass for a touchdown, so the focus needs to be on finding a way to punch it in when they get close to the end zone.
Atlanta has been very middle of the pack in terms on rushing defense. They give up an average of 116 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 19th in the NFL. The Saints still haven’t really found their running game, though it did look slightly better last Sunday. Alvin Kamara likely won’t suit up after suffering an apparent high ankle sprain in the game last week, so without him, Jamaal Williams will be the lead back and Taysom Hill should also see some snaps.
The Saints have gone from one of the worst red zone teams in the NFL to one of the best over the past few weeks. In their last three games, the Saints are converting 66.7% of their red zone possessions into touchdowns, which is tied for fifth during that span. On the flip side, the Falcons are the third best team in the league in terms of holding their opponents to field goals when they reach the red zone. Only 42% of their opponents red zone possessions end in six points, so once again, this will need to be a point of emphasis for the Saints on Sunday.
Overall, I still really don’t know what to make of this Saints offense. They looked great on Sunday, but they’re so inconsistent it’s insane. We’re either going to see the same offense we saw last week, one that’s capable of scoring 24+ points and moving the ball at will or we’re going to see the Saints offense that looks like they should be playing at the local high school. I think the Saints offense can find success against this Falcons defense, but the question is will they do it?