Matt Ryan and Michael Turner for the Atlanta Falcons..The Saints counter with Jabari Greer and Scott Fujita. Key matchups for this Sunday’s game?
Nope, that’s just the injury report. All four players did not practice Friday and are not expected to play Sunday.
This creates a lot of lineup changes for Sunday’s crucial NFC South matchup. A Saints win puts them closer to clinching dome field advantage for the NFC Playoffs and sets the franchise record for most wins in a season. A Falcons loss all but eliminates the Dirty Birds’ playoff hopes.
The two teams last played Monday night five weeks ago in a thrilling 35-27 game at the Superdome. The Falcons played well and fought toe to toe with the Saints before the Saints defense held off an Atlanta rally. Roddy White finished the game with 4 catches for 108 yards, including a 68 yard strike from Matt Ryan. Ryan finished the game with 289 yards passing and the touchdown to White, but also threw three interceptions on the night. Michael “The Burner” Turner torched the Saints defense for 151 rushing yards on 20 attempts for an astonishing 7.5 yards per attempt.
Since then, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Saints have continued their dominant march to perfection. The Falcons have lost three of five games since then, including a 34-7 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Expect the Falcons to start Chris Redmon at quarterback again this week if Ryan can not go. Redmon is a capable backup who struggled last week against the Eagles, throwing for 235 yards on 23-44 passes with two interceptions and a late touchdown. Jerious Norwood, coming off a hip injury, will get the nod if Turner can not go. The Eagles held the Falcons rushing attack to 61 yards on 22 attempts. The Falcons must do better if the want to pull off the upset.
Saints RT Jonathan Stinchcomb vs. Falcons DE John Abraham
The Atlanta Falcons have to make Drew Brees uncomfortable in the pocket if they are to pull off an upset. That begins with a solid pass rush. The last time the two teams played, the Falcons got to Brees in the first quarter and forced a fumble as Brees dropped back to pass, which was returned for a Falcons touchdown.
The Saints must protect Brees in the pocket. John Abraham is the Falcons best pass rusher and plays well against the Saints.
Saints Defensive Line vs. Falcons Offensive Line
This matchup will determine the outcome of the game. Can the Falcons banged up offensive line hold up against the Saints to allow the Falcons offense to soar? This line must protect whoever is throwing for the Falcons Sunday, whether it’s a banged up, immobile Matt Ryan or Chris Redmon, who will need the line to hold up if he is to have any success in the passing game. The Falcons can beat the Saints for the big play with Roddy White, but the line will need to create time for the quarterback. The Falcons must also use ball control to keep the potent Saints offense off the field. That begins with establishing a running game and churning out yards and time off the clock.
Three of their starting offensive linemen are on the injury report and are questionable for Sunday’s game. The Falcons played without starting T Sam Baker(elbow) and G Harvey Dahl(ankle) last week. Starting C Todd McClure returned to the field this week from a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Top backup T Will Svitek is also questionable on the injury report with a sprained ankle.