The Atlanta Falcons (5-8) will be on the road this week to take on the New Orleans Saints (4-9) in Caesars Superdome on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. A battle of long-time rivals who are still alive in the NFC South race.
The Saints as well as the Falcons are coming off a bye week. Their offense is led by veteran-quarterback Andy Dalton. As a unit they average 343.5 yards of total offense a game; 233.9 passing yards per game and 109.5 rushing yards per game.
Dalton has been serviceable; he’s completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,252 yards and 15 touchdowns for a total QBR of 53.1.
Running back Alvin Kamara is having a down season with just 983 total yards and three touchdowns.
Wide receiver Chris Olave is having an excellent rookie season. He has 60 receptions for 887 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive line has been solid; according to Football Outsiders they are the 14th ranked offensive line.
The Saints defense has been playing at a very good level. As a unit they give up 328.2 yards of total offense a game; 203.2 passing yards per game and 125 rushing yards per game. At 22.8=points per game, the Saints are middle of the pack, tied with the Rams at 16th, in points allowed.
The Falcons made a big change coming out of their bye week in hopes of kickstarting the final-four games of the year and building for the future.
Obviously the big change for the Falcons this week comes at the quarterback position. Third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder was named the starter last week, and will now be the leader of this offense.
This change has Falcons fans excited to see if Ridder is the future QB1 in Atlanta. In his three-preseason games Ridder completed 60.7% of his passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns, and he also rushed for 58 yards.
The Falcons offense started strong but has fallen off in recent weeks (hence the change at quarterback). As a unit they average 314.6 yards of total offense a game; 155.7 passing yards per game and 158.9 rushing yards per game.
The backfield continues to dominate. In their last game against the Steelers they rushed for 146 yards.
Rookie receiver Drake London was the focal point of the passing attack against the Steelers with 12 targets on Mariota’s 24 passes. On the season he has 47 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns and may be able to showcase his true talent with Ridder at quarterback.
The offensive line has been playing very well. According to Football Outsiders they are the third ranked offensive line.
The defense has not been good this season. As a unit they give up 380.6 yards of total offense a game; 251.1 passing yards per game and 129.5 rushing yards per game. Their yardage total ranks 30th in the NFL.
Offensively the Falcons will continue to be very run heavy, even more than they already are. The big question is how much Arthur Smith will let Ridder air it out.
Ridder has accuracy and arm strength that Mariota didn’t have, which allows this offense to be more dynamic. Expect the Falcons to come out with a fire lit underneath them.
This team is tired of losing and with a quarterback change and coming off a bye, this team is going to come out firing. The run game should be able to dominate. In Week 1 against the Saints, the backfield put up over 200 yards and two touchdowns.
London also had one of his best games of the season, hauling in five passes for 74 yards. With Marshon Lattimore possibly being out, London could be in for a big performance.
The offensive line has been playing great all year, and they should be able to continue that this week. Falcons-tormentor Cameron Jordan was on the Saints latest injury report, and if he isn’t able to go, the Falcons will find the going easier without their dominant defensive lineman.
With this being Ridder’s first start, the line will have to be on their A game, and they have to protect Ridder. If the line is able to replicate their Week 1 performance, the Falcons offense will dominate.
The Falcons are going to have their work cut out for them defensively this week.
The matchup to look out for is cornerback A.J. Terrell vs. Olave. Terrell has been playing very well these past few weeks, and he’ll be tasked to stop the star rookie in Olave. If Terrell is able to quiet Olave, this Saints offense will become one dimensional.
The defensive line has put up 17 sacks this season and should be able to generate pressure this week. Grady Jarrett is playing at a Pro Bowl level and could be in for a big time performance. The Saints offensive line has given up 28 sacks.
The Saints are going to look to take advantage of this weak Falcons defense. Kamara hasn’t been playing that well this season, could be in for a big game this week.
A battle of two NFC South rivals trying to stay alive in the race for the division. The Falcons turn to Desmond Ridder and will see if he is the future. The Falcons run game and the occasional Ridder pass should allow the Falcons offense to dominate.
Alvin Kamara and Chris Olave have proven they can take over a game and propel the Saints to a win. This game should be very fun, a tough battle of two bitter rivals.
Score Prediction: Falcons 27 Saints 23