Over the years I've had a chance to catch up numerous times with Jamie Kelly, reputed Falcons blogger, who as of this year now runs a new blog called The Falcon Wing. As much as I've always hated Jamie's team, I've always respected his knowledge as a football fan and Falcons blogger and you should too. I caught with him prior to Sunday's game to get his thoughts on the Falcons and the matchup this weekend. We talk Curtis Lofton, how lucky the Falcons have been, hating Roddy White, John Abraham remaining good despite being a senior citizen and how Matt Ryan has as many playoffs wins as your pet dog. You can also follow The Falcon Wing on twitter here. Hope you enjoy, and many thanks to Jamie for taking the time!!
Saints Nation: How the F are you guys 8-0 right now? There's been at least 2-3 games you had no business winning. That Carolina win in particular was a joke. Is there this sense amongst the fan base that it's only a matter of time before luck turns or does this feel like a destiny season?
The Falcon Wing: Great question. There are a few reasons, firstly this team has so much confidence and belief, something i haven't seen from this team before. Following the Vick fiasco, our Front office had been very strict on getting squeaky clean character guys, which hasn't helped the Falcons. Sometimes you need some interesting characters to help spark the team. Roddy White, Sean Weatherspoon and Asante Samuel have all added that bit of "swagger" to this team, that has been missing.
Secondly, the coaching changes. It's safe to say the co-ordinators we have had in the past were terrible, based on their performance since leaving Atlanta. Mike Mularkey, our former OC, now the HC in Jacksonville has done nothing for a 1-7 Jaguars team and our former DC Brian Van Gorder is stinking it up as Auburn's DC.
Our new guys Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan have added creativity and unpredictability to this team. Nolan with his creative coverages and Koetter with his use of screens and short passes, have given Atlanta things we haven't seen in a very long time.
It's true, the Carolina and Oakland games we should have lost, but on the flip side we are finding ways to win the games. In some ways it's encouraging we can win games we couldn't win before. Whether it's low scoring, high scoring, a blowout or close Atlanta has won it every type of way this season. In past years we could only win with time of possession and the run game that is no longer the case.
I wouldn't go as far as saying it's written in the stars for Atlanta but it has to be said this is the best Atlanta team in my memory, and if we are going to win the Superbowl this would look like being the year to do it.
SN: Seems like you guys don't miss Curtis Lofton at all. Meanwhile, while he's been good with the Saints they have the worst defense in NFL history. Thoughts on that?
TFW: It's tough for me to say, but i sill like Lofton a lot even though he is playing for the enemy now. However, we aren't missing him at all due to our change in defensive philosophy. We play in Nickel most of the time now with Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon as our usual LB's. When we do drop into base defense we put in Akeem Dent, who essentially is a clone of Lofton and plays very similar to Curtis.
Given the Saints' run defense issues is a bit puzzling as Lofton in Atlanta was a main reason why the Falcons defended the run so well in the Mike Smith era. The problem we always had with Lofton was his ability to cover the pass in zone coverage. I haven't seen enough Saints games to say that is still the case but i can say he isn't the best coverage linebacker in the world.
SN: Are you expecting the Falcons to come into New Orleans and blow out the Saints? On paper you guys are much stronger this year.
TFW: No, i don't see it being a blowout. It's a division game so it will be relatively close. The disparity in the quality of the two defenses will show before the end of the game. Even with the Saints struggles, for me this game is the toughest remaining on the Falcons schedule.
SN: Do you hate the Saints half as much as I hate the Falcons?
TFW: When the Saints are doing well there is nobody i hate more. To our delight the Saints have been off this year, so the hate has turned into more joy at the Saints' expense!
SN: How is John Abraham still good? Isn't he like 57 now? When is he going to retire? Any chance it's before Sunday?
TFW: You know i just can't believe the season Abraham is having even with the Falcons limiting his snaps a bit. He's 34, looking like 24 at the moment getting sacks at crucial times for the Falcons this season. Judging on this season and his two years remaining on his deal i would think a few more years yet before he hangs it up.
SN: Is Matt Ryan your MVP this season so far? And I don't mean of the Falcons. I mean the league MVP.
TFW: No doubt. Matt Ryan has been something else this year. He's led the Falcons to four 4th quarter game winning drives this season, which is kind of what he does. His decisiveness has come on leaps and bounds this season he's getting the ball out fast and anticipating the receivers will get open. He is leading the only undefeated team in the league, how can you not give it to him.
SN: How can you expose this Falcons' D? What do the Saints need to do to run up points effectively? I assume no Brent Grimes means a weaker pass defense?
TFW: In the past our pass defense has been our Achilles heel, that is no longer the case. New DC Mike Nolan has transformed this unit into an aggressive ball hawking unit that has been tremendous all year. If you want to move the ball you need to run the ball. We rank 24th against the run and have struggled with power runners at times this season.
Missing Grimes was a blow but Atlanta have done a good job despite it. In the Nickel package, which you will see a lot we have Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel on the outside with surprise sensation Robert McClain in the slot, who has been terrific since he entered the lineup.
Our safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are also cleaning up everything thrown across the middle with six interceptions this season between the two of them.
My advice is run the ball with Chris Ivory more than 20 times if you don't can't see you scoring enough points to keep up.
SN: Roddy White is the single most hated man in New Orleans. You could mash the DNA of Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Kobe Bryant, Rae Carruth, Jerry Sandusky, Kim Kardashian, Jay Cutler and Osama Bin Laden all together and create a supremely most hated human in the history of the United States, and Roddy White would still top it for us. Be honest, if he wasn't on your team, would you tolerate his mouth? Is there any player on the Saints that even comes close to that for you?
TFW: Being honest i probably wouldn't if he wasn't on our team. I always get on a friend of mine, a Cowboys fan for defending Dez Bryant (a much bigger nutcase than White) so i can't be too hypocritical, and i am more of a fan of the professional good person type player. That being said he is on our team and adds a great dimension to our offense and for as long as he is on the Falcons he has my full support.
It has always been Brees for me, the Verizon commercial where that girl smashes food in his face brings me endless enjoyment! More recently however it has become Jonathon Vilma for his endless rants about the commissioner. He really needs to pipe down, the Saints would be better off without him, especially now you have Curtis Lofton who is way better than Vilma anyway.
SN: Matt Ryan has won as many playoffs games as a quarterback as my plumber. Do you feel like if he's unable to do it again this year all this MVP talk and legacy stuff is for naught? Is there this cloud of worry that the Falcons will have a stellar regular season, get the playoffs, and lay an egg again?
TFW: This is a different Falcons team than in years' past with a new attitude, and a new level of confidence which makes me say it will be different than the last four years. The playcalling has been terrible in the postseason so far for the Smith led Falcons, with new guys in town it will give Ryan the opportunity to get that first win.
Of course there is a little lingering worry, but i have to say this is the best chance we have ever had of winning a superbowl. This team is too talented to disappoint again.
SN: Score prediction please.
TFW: Falcons 27, Saints 20. I can't see the Saints scoring more than 24 and i can't see the Falcons scoring under 24 given the Defensive talent on display.