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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com

Big Chief's Saints-Falcons preview

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

Sunday September 8 Noon Kickoff WWL Radio

Series History:  The Atlanta Falcons lead the all-time series 46-41 in the regular season.  The Falcons beat the Saints in the playoffs making the overall series lead to 47-41.  New Orleans has pulled close to the Falcons in the series as the Black and Gold have been impressive against their rivals as of late.  Since the 2006 season the Saints have posted an 11-3 record vs. Atlanta.  And since the 2003 season the Saints have lost only once to the Falcons when games are played in the Superdome.

Bird season openers!  This is the seventh time the Saints and Falcons have opened the season playing each other.  Who Dat Nation, you might want to close your eyes now.  The Saints have never beaten the Falcons on opening day! 
New Orleans is 0-6 versus those Dirty Birds in season opening games including a dismal 0-5 mark in the Big Easy.  The last time the Saints opened the season at home versus Atlanta was in 1986 when Coach Jim Mora made his debut.  It was not pretty, as the Birds won 31-10. 

What they are saying

Atlanta QB #2 Matt Ryan on how loud the Superdome is

 “It’s definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL and we know that.  I’ve been down there five times now and played down there five times and I know every time it’s loud and it’s hostile.  With the veteran guys that we have, we understand what it takes to go down there and execute at a high level and we need to be at our best.”

Atlanta Coach Mike Smith on the Falcons acquiring RB Stephen Jackson

 “Steven has a very good skill set, not only as a running back but as a receiving back. It gives you options on the offensive side where you don’t necessarily have to have a change of pace back. You can run the same personnel groupings and the same plays with Steven in the game. He’s been very effective as a runner. He’s had nine consecutive 1000-yard seasons and he had one season in which he caught 90+ balls. We like his skill set, not only running the ball, but as a receiving back as well.”

Saints QB #9 Drew Brees on what makes the Saints/Falcons Rivalry so intense

 “Just the fact that they’re a very good team and we’re a really good team. Anytime you’ve got two prideful teams, organizations that are used to winning and used to playing well and that kind of thing going at it, that’s a recipe for a very highly competitive, highly intense atmosphere. So I find, you always get that with this game. I’d say that the fan bases are probably more at odds than the teams are. That makes it fun too.”
 Saints Coach Sean Payton on New Orleans LB Curtis Lofton

 “He is now the signal caller.  He is now the guy who is playing Mike.  He played it a year ago, but I would say yes.  He is physical. He is a smart player.  He brings that leadership to the room.  A guy with experience and a guy that is a very good tackler.  He is well built, so in that 3-4 front, you are playing someone over the guard that is uncovered, often times he is taking on a bigger lineman than maybe in a 4-3 scheme.  He has handled that transition very well.”

The game

OK, breaking down first games of the season are kind of difficult.  All the stats the teams have compiled come from the majority of players that will not be that involved in this game.  The preseason basically tells us nothing other than which players make the roster.

Teams don’t game plan and the certainly don’t show anything new that they plan on doing.  So instead of predicting what I think will happen in this game I’ll tell you what I do know.

The Falcons

The Falcons were the top team in the NFC last season.  Atlanta won 13 games and secured the #1 seed in the conference landing home field in the post season.  However, it seems to me that not many folks take the Falcons as a team that can win it all.

Can they?  Of course they can!  But I get the feeling that no one believes it.  Truth be told, Atlanta was lucky to win their first playoff game under Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan, as the Seahawks spotted Atlanta a big lead and then gave it away.  Then, the Falcons true to form blew another big lead the following week in their loss to the 49ers in the NFC Title Game.  Some point out last season’s “almost got to the Super Bowl year” as motivation for Atlanta.

On the other, I hand think the Falcons are still a very good team, but until you win it all, in the words of Little Stevie Wonder, “you haven’t done nothing.”  When talking to national analysts this summer, many feel that this is the Falcons time.

Atlanta is solid on offense, they have upgraded their RB position with the addition of Stephen Jackson and Atlanta was able to fill some holes on the defensive side of the football this off season.   With that said, like all teams the Falcons have issues.

How can you replace the leader of you team and captain on your O-Line in one off season?  Simply put you can’t.  No one can.  The absence of center Todd McClure will be something that will be felt all season long.

For 13 seasons the former LSU Tiger was the most stable, dependable and reliable player in the Falcons organization.  Atlanta will find that getting a new ride after 13 years takes some getting used to.  And other than QB can you name the most important position on an NFL Team?  That would be the Center position.

So the biggest question mark I have about ATL is their newer looking O-Line.  Now, acquiring the services of the dangerous and physical RB Stephen Jackson is a big plus for ATL.  Jackson has been the model of consistency in the NFL rushing for 1000 yards or more in nine consecutive seasons.

Atlanta was once a team that used to pound the rock early and often, but now Atlanta is a legit passing team and calling on Jackson less in a Falcons uniform could mean much more in the long run for Atlanta.  Jackson will not have to be the sole offensive provider in Atlanta as he was called on to be in St. Louis with the Rams. 

The Falcons are solid when it comes to pass catchers.  WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones along with future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzales are as good of a core as any in the NFL. 

Over on the defensive side of the football the Falcons will have to be much better against the run than they were in 2012.  Atlanta was 29th in the NFL, allowing 123.2 yards rushing per game.  Overall the Falcons defense ranked 24th in the NFL surrendering 365.6 yards per contest.

Atlanta brought in veteran DL Osi Umenyiora to help aid their D-Line and the Falcons upgraded their Defensive Backfield with early round picks taking Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.

Now, if the Falcons don’t get any heat on Drew Brees, then look for Brees to go after those youngsters when they are in the game.  DE Kroy Bierman is back with the Birds after having four sacks last season.  Bierman and Umenyiora will look to get some pressure on the edge.

The Final Analysis

Both teams have upgraded their defensive units and both have added some veteran pieces to their offenses as well.  The Saints have a new-look defense that was very aggressive during camp and in the preseason.

If New Orleans is going to get after the QB this season it all starts this week.  The Saints look like an improved defense but no one thinks this team can allow a QB like Matt Ryan time in the pocket.  Simply put no pressure on Matt Ryan equals a long day for the Saints DB’s.

New Orleans must get back to rushing the football.  History tells us when the Saints have balance on offense, they are a very good team.  When they don’t have balance, they are not a very good team.  I expect Coach Payton to be patient with his rushing attack this season beginning this weekend against Atlanta.

I could sit here all day and throw out numbers at you.  But all of that information and stats were from last season.  This is a new season.  Both of these teams are called the cream of the NFC South and both now how vital it is to get off to a good start.

Emotions will be at a fever pitch as Coach Sean Payton is back on the sidelines in the regular season after being suspended all of 2012.  With the Dome-field advantage, I have to go with the Saints in this one. 

Expect another close battle.  Seven of the last nine meetings have been decided by 8 points or less, including five games that were decided by 3 points or less.  Lay the three and roll with the Black and Gold. 

Big Chief Says:  New Orleans 28 Atlanta 23

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Topics : Sports
Social :
Locations : AtlantaNew OrleansSt. Louis
People : Dat NationDesmond TrufantJim MoraJulio JonesMatt RyanMike SmithOsi UmenyioraRobert AlfordRoddy WhiteSean PaytonStephen JacksonTodd McClureTony Gonzales

09/07/2013 9:12AM
Big Chief's Saints-Falcons preview
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09/07/2013 1:07PM
Good summary, Deke!! Saints must do 2 things.....hit Matt Ryan and have at least a fairly decent run attack.....I think we must limit ATL to 24 points max.....if we do these things, we win!! Finally: Get ready to get Crunked CONS!.....here we come to get u !! bigbaddave
09/08/2013 6:54AM
dem Saints go on a 5 game loosing streak GO FALCONS
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