If records told the entire story the 8-0 Falcons traveling to 3-5 New Orleans would be just another likely blowout. However, if you consider it is the unbeaten yet under-supported Falcons against a team who has won three of four and is trying to shove its middle finger in the NFL's face, suddenly the game becomes Fox's marquee 1pm kickoff.
There is reason to question the Falcons perfect start. Eight wins have come against a group of opponents who are a combined 24-40 on the year. The Atlanta defense ranks 19th in the NFL. And come-from-behind victories against the likes of Carolina and Oakland don't shout out we're invincible. That being said, stats are meaningless when the record is unblemished
If you make your own luck, New Orleans needs to borrow Atlanta's recipe book. The Saints let franchise QB Drew Brees dangle in the wind over contract negotiations for much of the off-season. New Orleans lost their coach for the season when the NFL enacted harsh penalties for the bounty scandal. The Saints began the year by dropping four straight including back-to-back setbacks against Carolina and Kansas City, and they possess a swiss cheese defense. Yet New Orleans has won three of four and with a win today could very well get within one game of the final playoff spot.
The dirty birds continue to rely on steady and sometimes spectacular QB Matt Ryan. The 27-year-old has been intercepted just six times this year while throwing 17 touchdowns and completing nearly 69-percent of his passes. Ryan ranks in the top five among NFL quarterbacks in TD passes, completion percentage, and QB rating. The last three Super Bowl Champion signal callers have ranked in the top seven in TD's and QB Rating.
Ryan should have few issues against the New Orleans secondary. The Saints ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass. During the last five games New Orleans has seen their opponents pass for an average of 334 yards and 2.8 TD's. The last time they gave up fewer than two passing touchdowns in a game was seven weeks ago. And if you think New Orleans struggles against the pass, it may be their defensive strength.
Atlanta will face the worst rushing defense in the league today. The Saints allow 177 yards per game on the ground. The last two weeks not only have the Willis McGahee and LeSean McCoy rushed for over 100 yards against New Orleans, but the Broncos and Eagles went for 221 and 225 yards on the ground.
So the onus is on Brees to outscore the Falcons. The Pro Bowler has thrown 22 TD's this year. Over his last five games Brees has averaged 329 yards through the air while tossing 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Only four teams in the league have allowed fewer touchdown passes than the eight Atlanta has yielded.
The Falcon defense will be challenged today. The question is can New Orleans contain Ryan. When the Saints have won they have allowed an average of 21.7 points per game. In loses New Orleans has yielded 32.8 points a contest. Win or lose Atlanta will have control of the division. The Saints must do what no Falcon opponent has accomplished. New Orleans must end the perfect season to stay in the playoff race.