Monday Night Football Preview | Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
We get to finish up an exciting Week 16 with a fantastic NFC South rivalry on Monday Night Football between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
The Saints beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome in Week 10 26-23 to take the lead in the series 1-0. Now, the Falcons need two wins and two Saints losses in order to clinch the division, and they can start by getting a win on the road in the Bayou.
Atlanta got some help with the Bears losing on Sunday Night to the Packers, but making the playoffs won’t satisfy them. They want to be the team to beat in the NFC South.
Here are five things to watch on Monday Night Football.
1. What impact will Michael Turner have?
After a strong start to 2011, Turner’s performance has dwindled down just a bit. He hasn’t had more than 76 yards in his last four match-ups, and has been slightly banged up.
But, the extra day of rest may help him out a bit against New Orleans. In Week 10 he was just four yards away from 100 yards against New Orleans and we know that the Saints some times struggle to stop the run.
It’s not impossible for Turner to hit over 110-120 yards on Monday Night, but if the Falcons get down a bit early, Turner’s carries could be limited.
2. Can Drew Brees repeat his Week 15 performance?
Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns against the lowly Minnesota Vikings in Week 15. He’s unlikely to hit those numbers for a second straight week, but keep in mind that Atlanta’s secondary is a bit banged up.
Brees is capable of anything, and in a division match-up like this, anything is possible.
I think 330 yards and three touchdowns is more realistic for the standout quarterback.
3. Can the banged up Atlanta secondary slow Brees down?
The Falcons secondary has had its ups and downs, and recently injuries to cornerbacks Brent Grimes, Kelvin Hayden, and Christopher Owens have slowed them down a bit.
Grimes had a minor knee surgery, but is expected back in Week 16, however whether he will be 100% is to be determined. The Falcons need Grimes to help shut down Drew Brees, so they’ll likely push him to get back in action.
4. What running back will step up for New Orleans?
Mark Ingram hasn’t practiced for the Saints and will be out once again, which leaves Christopher Ivory and Pierre Thomas in the back field with Darren Sproles.
Sproles is a safe bet to continue making plays out of the back field on the receiving end, as well as some designed run plays.
Thomas and Ivory are a bit harder to predict.
Ivory looks to be the main two down back during the majority of the game, while Thomas will get looks in the red zone and goal line situations. However, the Falcons rush defense is tough, so don’t expect a huge game out of either two backs.
5. Is the NFC South title realistic for the Falcons?
The reason we say this is because the Saints have to lose the next two games with the Falcons winning their next two in order for that to happen.
The Saints finish the regular season at home against the Panthers, a team that they struggled with in Week 5 after winning 30-27. Could New Orleans really drop two straight division games?
It’s not impossible for the Falcons to take the title, it’s just not probable. Even with the Panthers improving, you can bet that the Saints will find a way to come out on top in Week 17, assuming they don’t already have the title clinched after Monday night’s game.
Overall, I believe the Saints will ultimately take out the Falcons on Monday Night Football. I find it unlikely that the Falcons would go into New Orleans and take a game away from Drew Brees as he’s trying for another division title.
Matt Ryan and company will put up a very worthy fight, but I see them coming up just a bit short. Drew Brees is a champion, and he will likely play like one tonight.