As the Falcons take their talents to the Big Easy to take on the Saints, Steven Jackson and the Matt Ryan’s job will be anything but easy against the Saints considering the Saints fans and former-coach-turned-new-head-coach Sean Peyton will be in attendance. In a rivalry as deep as the South itself, this opening day game means the world to both of these teams.
The Falcons, fresh off a 13-3 season that took them all the way to the NFC Championship Game, are hungry for yet another push towards the Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan had a career year last year throwing for 4,719 yards, 68.6 completion percentage, and 32 touchdowns (4,177 yards, 29 touchdowns in 2011).
One reason for such an increase in yardage and touchdowns; 2nd year wide out Julio Jones. Out of the University of Alabama, Jones was one of the NFL’s finest wide receivers last season, catching 79 passes for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. Since the Alabama native was drafted 6th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, he has caught fire, lighting up opposing defenses week after week.
As well, Jones’s teammate and former UAB Blazer Roddy White has strung together 7 straight 83+ receptions and 1,000+ yard seasons in a row and hasn’t showed any signs of slowing up. Although White’s targets did fall a bit (181 in 2011, 143 in 2012), he is still Matt Ryan’s go to guy and has the ability to turn a small gain into a big play.
On the rushing side of the ball, the Falcons acquired former Ram Steven Jackson who has been as consistent as they come in the NFL, rushing for 1,000+ yards and 4+ touchdowns for 8 seasons in a row. Especially with this 6′ 2″ build, Jackson has the power and at the same time, the agility that makes him a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.
When I look at this Falcons offense, what I notice most is it’s consistency. Especially in this passing game, the Falcons are loaded with reliable yet explosive receiving talent. With Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, not to mention future Hall-of-Famer TE Tony Gonzalez (930 yards, 8 touchdowns in 2012), the Falcons aerial attack is one of the most lethal in the game.
Unfortunately for the Falcons 23rd ranked pass defense, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have their own aerial show to show off in Louisiana.
QB Drew Brees during the past 5 season has been absolutely dynamite, throwing for over 4,338 yards and 26 touchdowns in every single season since 2006 and throwing for over 5,000 yards 3 times and over 33 touchdowns in every season since 2008.
Behind Brees success is veteran WR Marques Colston, one of the most reliable playmakers in the NFC (1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns over the past 4 seasons), sure handed Lance Moore (1,041 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2012) and more recently, TE Jimmy Graham (2,292 yards and 20 touchdowns since 2011). And although the Saints were ranked 25th in rushing yards last season, Drew Brees and the Saints can still reek havok in the the NFC South.
When looking at both of these teams and their defensive capabilities (Saints ranked 32nd in rushing yards and 31st in passing yards last season, Falcons 21st in rushing and 23rd in passing), this game on Sunday should be a shootout. And even though the Saints high flying offense is deadly, this revamped Falcons secondary will keep the Saints grounded enough to pull out a win.
Look for a high scoring contest in New Orleans on Sunday and even though the Saints have home field advantage, these Falcons should come out on top and make their first step towards the ultimate prize; the Super Bowl