Forget records, forget stats, and forget about the Saints' horrific defense. This is Saints-Falcons, the most underrated rivalry in all of sports. It may not get the publicity of a Yankees-Red Sox but I can promise you the game means every bit as much to Saints fans as those other respective fan bases. This is for pride in the deep south and for decades when national respect was out the window for these two teams this game was our Super Bowl. The stakes may be higher these days, but the bitter rivalry lives on. Here are fives things I'm looking for in this game:
1. How does Charles Brown hold up?
Last time Brown started it was a disaster against the Rams and Chris Long. Brown single handedly lost that game for the Saints and almost had Drew Brees' neck broken in the process. I'd be lying if I didn't admit him starting at right tackle positively terrifies me. Keep an eye out for how he performs because if he hasn't improved from his game against the Rams last year it could severely stunt the offense's ability to be successful. My guess is Jermon Bushrod may get less help as a result of him starting, too, so blocking John Abraham on the other side could also be a major problem.
2. Can the Saints' secondary do anything to slow down Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez?
White in particular has always had huge games against the Saints, as much as it burns my soul to admit it. That receiving trio is a major mismatch against most defenses, but against the Saints' secondary it's almost unfair. Will they even be able to slow them down at all?
3. Can the Saints generate a pass rush similar to the Eagles game?
The Saints blitzed insane amounts against Vick and the Eagles. Will they continue to go all kamikaze style? That seems more risky against the Falcons because they are a run first offense that likes to set up play action. Also, the Saints tackle badly and Michael Turner is a tremendous tackle breaker, so this will likely force the Saints to play the Falcons more straight up and blitz less. If the Saints revert back to more 4 man rushes, it could lead to disaster, but I am curious to see if Cam Jordan and Will Smith can build on that great pass rushing performance a week ago and get in Matt Ryan's face. Missing Junior Galette will hurt in that department.
4. With Darren Sproles out, do the Saints turn to Chris Ivory again?
Chris Ivory finally played and was a monster in his first game of the season last week. For one week all was right with the Saints' running game. Can the trio of PT/Ingram and Ivory duplicate that performance? The one benefit to Sproles being out is that it makes the Saints at least a little less predictable with their backfield personnel. When Sproles is in the backfield, I'd venture to say the Saints pass 95% of the time. Defenses can count on that. With the other three it's not as obvious, and you can take advantage of a more honest defense. But will the Saints stick with Ivory as their primary rusher in this one, or go with the hot hand? The Falcons rank 25th in the league against the run so this is a defense you can pound the rock against.
5. Does the home crowd help the Saints win?
If you're going to this game: MAKE AN IMPACT. BE LOUD. Remember, this is Saints-Falcons. Leave your frustrations about Aaron Kromer, Roger Goodell and our porous defense at the door. Focus on Bobby Hebert, Morten Andersen and Joe Horn burning us for these clowns. Focus on all the things Roddy White has said about the city and the team. Use that as fuel to help the Saints win the game as the 12th man. We're looking to end a perfect season here!