New Orleans Saints (10-4, 5-2 away) vs Atlanta Falcons (12-2, 6-0 home) @ Georgia Dome on TSN, 8:30 PM ET
Line: ATL by 2.5
Reason To Watch: It seems only two teams from the NFC could give the Patriots a run for their money in the Super Bowl. While Philly could give the Patriots fits with their speed at receiver, the Eagles have shown they can disappear at anytime.
The Falcons have been the most constant team all season, and rarely beat themselves by not turning over the ball. QB Matt Ryan displays the same leadership abilities and game making decisions like a Brady or a Montana (don’t sleep on him, he’s that good). Ryan is unbeatable at home going something like 19-1 in his three seasons at the Georgia Dome.
When Ryan isn’t throwing to the NFL’s receptions leader Roddy White or his ageless TE Tony Gonzalez, Ryan hands it off to workhorse RB Michael Turner. Turner has run for his second 1,000 yard season (1,256) since leaving San Diego three seasons ago. Turner hasn’t fumbled all season.
On defence, Atlanta generates a lot of pressure from their front four, that includes Pro Bowler John Abraham and the unheralded Kroy Biermann (who has one of the best touchdowns of the year). Abraham and Biermann draw enough attention to allow an extremely physical linebacking core in Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson, and rookie Sean Weatherspoon to make plays sideline to sideline. The Falcons d has 19 INTs in 2010 lead by Brent Grimes and William Moore with five a piece.
The Saints are finally healing up. With all three running backs suppose to be in the lineup tonight, New Orleans will be able to control the ball on offence and attempt to wear down Atlanta’s D.
Drew Brees (another San Diego cast-off) joined Peyton Manning as the only other quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in five consecutive seasons. Brees will be glad to have Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas back in the lineup, Bush’s impact on the offence was exposed in his absence. Having Reggie on the field forces defences to notice him and account for him and creates more one on one opportunities for other players.
The Saints will need to force the Falcons offence to make quick decisions and force bad throws, if they have a shot tonight. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams will double team Roddy White, forcing his lackluster linebackers to cover Tony G.
Saints DE Will Smith has been very successful against Falcons LT Sam Baker. Smith has 3 sacks in the last two seasons against his rivals from the NFC South division