Elite quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Drew Brees go head to head this Sunday at 4:25pm. Atlanta has already clinched a playoff spot, but looks to stay at the #2 seed that comes with a first round bye and ensures that all playoff games (except the Super Bowl), will be played in a dome. The Saints look to spoil the Falcons hopes at a bye week, and manage to split the series for the season. Atlanta guarantees holding the 2 seed if they win, but are likely to fall out of the two spot if they lose, considering Seattle has an easier matchup against the 2-13 49ers (and remember, Seattle has the tiebreaker over Atlanta). Based on how Atlanta’s, Green Bay’s, and Seattle’s games finish, the Falcons can enter the playoffs anywhere between the 2 and 4 seed. Don’t expect for any Falcon’s players to be benched for preventing chance at injury, as this is an extremely important game for Atlanta seeding wise. With one more win this coming week, Atlanta increases their chances even more from 10-1 at winning the Super Bowl. (Vegas odds)
Offensive breakdown- No players except Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins have more yards than Matt Ryan on the season. This matchup between the Saints and Falcons contains two of the NFL’s top passers. Brees sits at 4,858 yards, and Ryan is behind at 4,613 yards. The Saints throw the ball more than the Falcons do, however both QB’s have roughly the same completion percentage. (Brees 71%, Ryan 70%) A big difference between Ryan and Brees is that Brees has thrown for twice the amount of INT’s than Ryan. Brees has also lost twice the number of fumbles. Turnovers will likely be a huge aspect to Sunday’s game. A second factor to Sunday’s game is the wide receivers. Julio Jones is a threat against any team, and the Saints must slow him down to stand a chance. The Falcons have a tough task as well, handling vertical threat Brandon Cooks. You can’t forget about secondary wide receivers Mohamad Sanu and Michael Thomas either. People could argue Atlanta has a better receiving core. But part of the reason the Falcons are given a 70.7 percent chance to win by ESPN’s power index, is because the Falcons have proven to have a stronger rushing attack. For instance, the last time these two teams played Atlanta rushed for 217 yards and the Saints had a mere 115. Freeman and Coleman will be looking to outperform Ingram and Hightower for the Falcons to end up on top. Even though the Falcons have been slightly more effective on offense than the Saints this year, facing Drew Brees is never a walk in the park. It’s crucial for Matt Ryan and the rest of Atlanta’s offense to show out and score 30+.
Defensive breakdown– Over the last 5 games, the Saint’s defense has given up an average of 23.2 points per game. The Falcon’s defense has only averaged 16.4 points given up over the last 5 games. Since the Falcons played the Eagles in week 11, a significant increase in defensive play has shown. In fact, Vic Beasley now leads the league in sacks! Facing a high-powered Saints offense, don’t expect the Falcon’s defense to be lock down. However, if they manage to force a few turnovers and give up less than 24, expect a Falcons victory barring anything out of the ordinary. As for the Saints defense, look for Matt Ryan to put on a clinic as he has done to nearly all defenses he’s faced this year.
Special team’s breakdown– One of the most consistent reliable kickers in the NFL has to be Matt Bryant. Out of 36 field goals on the season, he’s only missed 3. Bryant has already been named a pro-bowler, and just a few days ago he was named special teams player of the week for week 16. If a game came down to one kick this year, Falcon’s fans could rest assured as long as it is #MoneyMatt kicking the ball. Saints kicker Will Lutz is not bad, Lutz has missed 6 out of 32 attempts on the season. He also hasn’t missed a kick since week 11. Both kickers in this matchup are good enough to be trusted at any point in the game. Bryant and Lutz are likely to be called upon a lot in a game that is expected to be filled with numerous scoring on both sides.
Score Prediction/ Falcons-34 Saints-27
Falcons Injury Report (via foxsports.com)
|Mims II, David||CB||Undisclosed||Questionable|
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