Nov 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints fans hold up a sign in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons: The Facts

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Hatred, or hate, is defined as a deep and emotional dislike. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints are one of the league’s best examples of a hate filled rivalry. To suggest that these two franchises, who both got their starts in the later part of the 1960s, ‘hate each other’ is one of life’s great mysteries. A lot has been said about each other’s team, both positive and negative. You can fill in the blanks and expletives yourselves.

I’m focused on one thing today: the facts. Everyone loves to get wrapped up in this thing or that thing, but what do stats tell us? Let’s dive in.

Team records since 2006

 
Saints
Falcons
200610-67-9
20077-94-12
20088-811-5
200913-39-7
201011-513-3
201113-310-6
20127-913-3
201311-54-12

Three losing seasons for the Falcons, and two losing seasons for the Saints since Sean Payton entered the scene. If you want to look at things as a ‘glass half full’ perspective and to appease the Falcons fans, each team has had a losing season since Mike Smith entered the picture in 2008.

Head to Head since 2006

11/21/2013 – New Orleans Saints 17, Atlanta Falcons 13
09/08/2013 – New Orleans Saints 23, Atlanta Falcons 17
11/29/2012 – Atlanta Falcons 23, New Orleans Saints 13
11/11/2012 – New Orleans Saints 31, Atlanta Falcons 27
12/26/2011 – New Orleans Saints 45, Atlanta Falcons 16
11/13/2011 – New Orleans Saints 26, Atlanta Falcons 23 (OT)
12/27/2010 – New Orleans Saints 17, Atlanta Falcons 14
09/26/2010 – Atlanta Falcons 27, New Orleans Saints 24 (OT)
12/13/2009 – New Orleans Saints 26, Atlanta Falcons 23
11/02/2009 – New Orleans Saints 35, Atlanta Falcons 27
12/07/2008 – New Orleans Saints 29, Atlanta Falcons 25
11/09/2008 – Atlanta Falcons 34, New Orleans Saints 20
12/10/2007 – New Orleans Saints 34, Atlanta Falcons 14
10/21/2007 – New Orleans Saints 22, Atlanta Falcons 16
11/26/2006 – New Orleans Saints 31, Atlanta Falcons 13
09/25/2006 – New Orleans Saints 23, Atlanta Falcons 3

This is where I can’t wrap my head around Falcons fans ‘talking smack’. The proof is in the pudding. Yes, the majority of these games have been extremely close. Lately, they’ve come down to the final drive. However, give credit where it’s due. The Saints have a 13-3 record since 2006, or a 9-3 record since Mike Smith entered the picture.

Coaching Battle: Mike Smith vs. Sean Payton

 
Payton
Smith
Total Record73-3960-36
Coaching Since20062008
Playoff Appearances105
Playoff Record6-41-4
Division Titles32
Losing Seasons21

Mike Smith and Sean Payton sport very similar & respectable coaching records, but Atlanta’s woes clearly loom in the postseason. I can’t skate by the fact that each of these teams have five division titles a piece in their franchise history. For the sake of the ‘Mike Smith didn’t come in until 2008 argument’, the next several categories are all about that.

Team Stats – Offense since 2008

 
Saints
Falcons
Points For2,7792,342
Points Per Season Avg463.16390.33
Points Per Game Avg28.9524.4
Average Rank2.512.66
Total Yards - Offense39,43134,106
Total Yards/Season Avg6,571.835,684.33
Total Yards/Game Avg410.73355.25
Total Pass Yards29,03523,418
Pass Yards/Season Avg4893.163,903
Pass Yards/Game Avg302.46243.93
Total Rush Yards10,39610,688
Rush Yards/Season Avg1,732.661,781.33
Rush Yards/Game Avg108.28111.33

New Orleans potent offense speaks for itself, performing better than Atlanta in every single category except rushing. There is no arguing with this.

Team Stats – Defense since 2008

 
Saints
Falcons
Average Ranking18.6620.66
Total Yards33,88433,730
Total Yards/Season5,647.335,621.66
Total Yards/Game352.96351.36
Total Pass Yards/Season22,36222,585
Total Pass Yards/Avg3,7273764.16
Total Pass Yards/Game Avg232.94235.28
Total Rush Yards11,52211,145
Total Rush Yards/Avg1,920.331,857.50
Total Rush Yards/Game120.01116.10
Total Points2,1382,030
Total Points/Season Avg356.33338.33
Total Points/Game Avg22.2821.15
Total Sacks208187
Total Sacks/Avg34.6631.16
Total Interceptions8696
Total Interceptions/Avg14.3316
Total Fumbles Rec6162
Total Fumble Rec/Avg10.1610.33

I bet you wouldn’t guess that these two defenses are fairly neck and neck, and the categories that the two differ in are basically splitting hairs.

Team Giveaway/Takeaway Ratio since 2008

 
New Orleans
Atlanta
2013+4-5
2012+3+13
2011-3+9
2010-4+16
2009+14+5
2008-30
TOTAL+11+38
AVG+1.83+6.33

I’m sure many didn’t realize that Atlanta has actually won the overall giveaway/takeaway season battle in recent years.

Franchise Head to Head by Decade

 
Series Edge
2010-PresentSaints (6-2)
2000-2009Saints (13-7)
1990-1999Falcons (13-7)
1980-1989Tie (10-10)
1970-1979Falcons (14-6)
1967-1969Tie (1-1)

The overall battle goes to Atlanta 47-43, with one of those victories coming in the 1991 Wild Card Playoffs. Falcons fans, please don’t stoop to the Dallas Cowboys argument. We’re only interested in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentality. We shouldn’t have to go back to VHS tapes to preserve your history and defend you. Let it go. Were any of you actually fans when the Falcons went on a ten-game win streak from 1995-1999? This matchup’s power has shifted in the past decade.

Pro Bowl Representation since 2009 (Note: The Pro Bowl years correspond to the Super Bowl)

2014: New Orleans 5, Atlanta 1
2013: Atlanta 5, New Orleans 4
2012: New Orleans 5, Atlanta 2
2011: Atlanta 9, New Orleans 5
2010: New Orleans 7, Atlanta 1
2009: New Orleans 2, Atlanta 2

28-20 in the Pro Bowl count, in favor of the Saints.

Some of you might be wondering, am I saying Atlanta is terrible? No, and that’s not the point. Do I dislike your team? Absolutely, because that’s what rival teams do. There are many heated rivalries these days (Redskins-Cowboys, Eagles-Cowboys, Packers-Bears, 49ers-Seahawks, Steelers-Ravens to name a few). When it boils down to it, you can’t sit there and honestly tell me there are many fans that have reasonable banter and discussion when it comes to talking about each other. I will say that contrary to popular belief, sensible fans exist from Atlanta’s side.

The vast majority of Saints fans despise Falcons fans, and vice versa. These were the first two NFL teams to be represented by the ‘deep south’. These franchises have shared players, coaches, and even families. Anytime these two teams play each other, it’s sure to be a highly entertaining affair.

Arguably, we can thank the events of 2006 (return to the Dome after Hurricane Katrina) that ultimately fueled the spark between these two. Up until then, Atlanta and New Orleans were never considered a prime time marquee matchup on the big stage. Case and point, since 2006, Atlanta and New Orleans have met seven times on the prime time stage (five Monday Night Football games, two Thursday Night Football games). Before that? Twice.

Let me say that again. Twice.

The ongoing debate as to what team is better is in the eyes of the beholder. If we’re going with overall history, then I’d say it’s fairly even. However, if you’re going to go off of recent history and facts, then why can’t you say it’s New Orleans? Because as a Falcons fan, you’ll never let that happen. Despite all of these facts, what really matters? How about the pride and joy, and dedication each of us show towards our respective teams.

Let me just leave you with a quote from Saints’ safety Rafael Bush that pretty much sums up this entire matchup:

“We’re definitely the big brother, I mean, we won twice last year. If you go against the overall record, I think the Saints are pretty much winning in that matchup. So they’re the little brothers, and we’re going to go in their house and we’re going to spank them like they’re our little brothers.”

So what’s the bottom line? Debating whether or not the Falcons or Saints are better is the equivalent of debating who would win in a Superhero fight, Batman or Superman. We’ll go back and forth, until we all pass on. And You know what? That’s perfectly fine.

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