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Aug 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks over the goal post following a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons: Five Impact Players

The New Orleans Saints head east to take on their NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons, this Sunday. We’ve waited for Saints’ football to return for nearly eight months, and we finally get to see our boys return to action.

Impact players are those who have an influence or effect on the outcome of a game, both positively or negatively. For the Saints, I have selected five impact players who can rapidly dictate how the team fares.

Jimmy Graham

It seems like a no-brainer, right? Graham didn’t end last year on a high note, so he’ll want to establish some dominance early. If you’re in any type of fantasy football league and have Jimmy Graham, you’d be insane to even question starting him. Check out Graham’s last few games against the Falcons:

11/21/13 – 7 targets, 5 receptions, 100 yards, TD
9/8/13 – 7 targets, 4 receptions, 45 yards, TD
11/29/12 – 6 targets, 4 receptions, 59 yards
11/11/12 – 8 targets, 7 receptions, 146 yards, 2TD

In Graham’s short career against Atlanta, he’s totaled 35 receptions for 500 yards, 14.29 yard/average, and 7 touchdowns. Oh by the way, those 7 touchdowns are tied for the most scored against one opponent for Graham (the Panthers are the other team to be ‘Graham’d). The Falcons secondary of Josh Wilson, William Moore, Dwight Lowery, and Desmond Trufant will have their hands full all day covering the multiple weapons of Drew Brees. Graham should find success, but the bigger question remains: What is his touchdown celebration going to be?

Shayne Graham

We sat wondering what our kicker situation would be like for the year after the news broke of the team releasing both Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke on Saturday. As Sean Payton announced, the team re-signed Graham, which speaks to Payton’s confidence in the veteran. Graham has the luxury of kicking inside of a dome. I can’t tell you how important points are in these matchups, so Graham converting field goals is just as important as the Saints getting first downs.

Mark Ingram

Ingram has a very different demeanor to him these days, and we can’t simply ignore it. There’s a strong chance that the first 15 scripted plays will feature Ingram several times. With the team’s offensive line regaining the services of center Jonathan Goodwin, it will be interesting to see how Ingram fares. As we know, a good run game will allow the Saints to set up play action, and keep the Falcons defense honest. We don’t need Drew Brees throwing it 50 times/game. Remember, the great teams of 2006, 2009, and 2011 each averaged over 100 rushing yards/game.

Patrick Robinson

No Champ Bailey in the secondary means that all eyes are fixed on Patrick Robinson, who officially won the team’s second starting cornerback position. We can safely assume that Keenan Lewis will be covering Julio Jones, and have his respective hands full. The last thing we need in New Orleans is for Roddy White to have any type of success. We’re needing Robinson to play smart, but aggressive. As I’ve stated previously, he’s under a Who Dat Nation microscope.

Akiem Hicks

I’m expecting the Atlanta Falcons to account for the likes of Junior Galette and Cam Jordan, which would yield way for someone like Akiem Hicks to bear hug Matt Ryan a few times. The Falcons offensive line already has some serious question marks going into this game, and with Hicks pegged as a breakout candidate this year, I love his odds of making a statement in game one.

Who do you think is poised to be an impact player on Sunday? Sound off below!

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons New Orleans Saints

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