Remember this from last year?
When the undefeated Atlanta Falcons came to the Mercedes Benz Superdome to beat up on the rudderless New Orleans Saints?
The Saints with no head coach?
The Saints with the prolifically woeful defense?
The Saints who had discovered a formula for losing games in spectacular fashion that normally would have been won?
You remember. How could you possibly forget?
Well, get ready for more of the same.
As for the game this Sunday, Vegas lists it as a push with the Saints -3 at home. The Falcons come into the season opener as the favorite to win the NFC South. Vegas also has decent odds on them to be Super Bowl Champions. Just like they did last year. And the year before that.
This has become a recurring theme with the Dirty Birds. They just cannot get it done.
The Falcons have made one legitimate off-season acquisition that should cause some Saints fans to worry. #39. Steven Jackson. Even though he is 72 years old (football years, RB) there is no denying that this man had been kryptonite to the Saints when playing in St Louis. Jackson has faced the Saints 5 times and averages 5.1 ypc and a rushing TD per game (22 carries/112ypg). Tack on another 5 catches for 32 ypg and there is no denying that this is the man to stop. The Saints are 2-3 against the Steven Jackson led Rams while they are 6-3 against the Falcons with Michael Turner (who is filling up his newly-found free time eating by Cheetos and playing Sega Dreamcast, as I was told by a source) as the team’s primary rusher.
The good news in all of this? The Falcons Offensive Line is patchwork and pretty much stinks. For some reason, their front office was cool with letting Tyson Clabo hit the market regardless of the fact that he was a really good tackle. After Todd McClure retired they just slid Peter Konz over to Center. Sam Baker is an OK Left Tackle, so there wasn’t much to worry about after he put together a solid performance last season. Garrett Reynolds moved into Konz’s spot at Guard and he’s played a game or two in the league. At the start of training camp Falcons fans were ready to see Mike Johnson prove their front office right in letting Clabo walk. Well, Johnson pretty much lost his kneecap (heard he still hasn’t found it) and broke his leg in camp and was replaced by 2nd year player, Lamar Holmes.
The 2012 Falcons Offensive Line had a combined 457 NFL starts at the end of last season. This 2013 unit that will be trotting out onto the field Sunday, 174 combined NFL starts. That’s math that even Roger Goodell can do.
Speaking of Goodell, Payton’s back. Since 2006, the Saints dominate the Falcons with an impressive 11-3 record. (10-2 with Payton actually coaching the team, but whatever, the past is the past. Right?) A couple of running game related stats to keep in mind when looking at this matchup: 7-0 when outrushing the Falcons; 7-0 when holding the Falcons to under 100 yards rushing. We’ll find out Sunday if Sean Payton was preaching the gospel when he said there will be a renewed focus on the running game this year. Lord knows we kept enough running backs on the final 53 to do just that.
When it comes to the Saints defense, I haven’t a clue what to expect. No idea whatsoever. I don’t know what that was in the preseason games, but it didn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen Rob Ryan put on the field before, which I’m sure was by design. Cool. Here are my guesses at what we may see on Sunday.
- Lots of Kenny Vaccaro. Covering Tony Gonzalez, or slot receivers, or blitzing, or maybe just telling yo mama jokes to Matt Ryan during teevee timeouts. I do think that he’ll be on the field a whole lot considering his speed, abilities in coverage and his apparent desire to knock the ever-loving crap out of people.
- Safety help over the top. On both sides, for a good portion of the game.
- Matrez Wilson will blitz the A-gap and get a sack.
- Junior Galette will put up good numbers. Numbers so good that people will quit whining about how, when and why he uses twitter. It’s twitter, people. Twitter. If your life is so dull that crying about one of our starting player’s twitter usage is something that not only crosses your mind but also comes out of your mouth, go find a homeless drunk who needs some help or something so you can gain some perspective as to what is important in life.
- The amoeba/psycho front will make an appearance. I just pray it doesn’t backfire.
- Roman Harper will miss a tackle. Then the conversations about how much he ruins this team and wears boots made from the hides of baby seals can begin in earnest, because preseason hating is the same is preseason football. Weak.
I want points. A gajillion of them. I want rushing TD’s, Passing TD’s, Return TD’s, Interception-Stripped-Away-By-Receiver TD’s (Welcome back, Meach. Don’t look like you did in San Diego.) Just give me the points. I don’t care how and by whom as long as they are there at the end of the game. With Payton back and #9 under center, I am not worried. I am not overly concerned.
Seriously, though, Saints-Falcons has been a nail-biting roller coaster ride for many years now and I expect nothing less of this week’s matchup. No matter how badly I want an easy blowout over those dirty birds and their “we show up on time for free hot dogs and bobble-heads” fans, I am not expecting it. If it does happen, I will wholeheartedly bask in it and ultimately refuse to let its glory escape me until the following week’s game.
Who Dat, y’all!