It’s one of the oldest, most bitter rivals in the NFL. It contains two cities that have years of history and bad blood. And on Sunday, the Falcons vs Saints rivalry will play a huge role in deciding the playoff hopes for the two NFC South opponents.
After holding off the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in a game that was closer than it probably should have been, the Falcons will have a chance to clinch a playoff birth with a win in New Orleans. However, things will be much more difficult for Atlanta this time than they were roughly two weeks ago in Atlanta. For starters, the Saints will be much healthier than they were in the first matchup, when standout rookie Alvin Kamara was injured early on and numerous other Saints exited throughout the game. This contest will also be held in New Orleans, where the passionate Saints fans will be extra loud for the rivalry game.
1. Consistent Play Calling
Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has been shaky at best thus far in his first season, again made questionable play calls at key points in the game last week in Tampa. Sarkisian has a tendency to get too “cute” in certain situations that only require simple play calls. Sarkisian will inevitably have to make bold play calls in this game in order to keep the Saints’ defense on their toes, but he also must recognize when more straightforward calls are necessary.
2. Containing Kamara
Rookie running back Alvin Kamara only played for part of one drive against Atlanta in the first meeting because of a concussion sustained during the first quarter. In that one drive, Kamara ran circles around the Atlanta defense and was a big reason why New Orleans was in field goal range at the time of his injury. Kamara has since recovered from his concussion and Atlanta will need to contain him in order to take away a major part of the Saints’ potent offense.
3. Getting off to a fast start
The energy inside the stadium in the early moments of the game will undoubtedly be electric. The Superdome will be the most hostile environment that Atlanta has played in this season, and the Falcons will need to come out of the gates with the right energy in order to take the crowd out of the game early. This means having a solid first drive that gets points and stopping the Saints on their first drive. The Falcons cannot expect to come back and win the game if they dig themselves a hole early on.
Tevin Coleman – Will Play
Julio Jones – Will Play
Andy Levitre – Questionable
Larry Warford – Questionable
Andrus Peat – Questionable
Senio Kelemete – Questionable
Michael Hoomanawanui – Questionable
Garrett Griffin – Questionable
A.J. Klein – Out
Kenny Vaccaro – Out
Sunday, December 24, 2017.
1:00 PM ET
RADIO: 92.9 The Game
I think the Falcons will come out sharper than they have in recent weeks, but they won’t be able to sustain that energy for a full 60 minutes. The Saints’ offense will ultimately make a few more plays and win a close one for New Orleans.
Prediction: Saints 27, Falcons 20