ATLANTA FALCONS (8-0)
at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: New Orleans -2.5, Total: 53.5
The Falcons are not only trying to keep their unblemished record intact on Sunday in New Orleans, but they are also seeking revenge from the Saints recent dominance in this series.
The Falcons are looking to snap a four-game losing streak against the Saints. Their last trip to New Orleans was particularly ugly, with Drew Brees and the offense hanging 45 points on Atlanta in a 45-16 Saints victory. The unbeaten Falcons have a different look this year, with a much more wide-open offense and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolanís unique looks on defense. The Saints had struggled to contain anyone all season until the Eagles came to town with their decimated offensive line on Monday night. The Atlanta offense poses a much bigger challenge with the teamís many weapons.
Can the Falcons stay unbeaten with a road win at rival New Orleans? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Atlanta has a great passing offense (278 YPG, 8th in the NFL), and will certainly try to throw the football all over New Orleans' secondary allowing 295 passing YPG (4th-most in NFL). QB Matt Ryan is just 2-5 in his career versus New Orleans, but he attempted 52 passes in both meetings last year, racking up 724 yards and 3 TD. He has frequently targeted all three of his great receivers -- WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez -- but he may look at White just a little more than usual. In five career games in New Orleans, White has 578 receiving yards (116 per game) and three scores. Jones also had a great game at the Superdome as a rookie last year, catching eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons don't have to be one-dimensional though, because the Saints have an even more generous rushing defense, allowing a league-high 177 rushing YPG. This is great news for Michael Turner, who had just 11 carries in last year's lopsided loss in New Orleans. A closer game should allow him to post numbers similar to what he did in 2009 and 2010 at the Superdome when he carried the ball 50 times for 265 yards (5.3 YPC) and 2 TD in those two games. There are no significant injuries to the Falcons offense, but three key defensive players are all questionable in LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), S Charles Mitchell (calf) and DT Peria Jerry (knee).
Brees leads the NFL with 2,549 passing yards (319 per game) and only Aaron Rodgers has surpassed his 22 TD. Brees continues to lean heavily on his top two receivers, WR Marques Colston (626 rec yds, 6 TD) and TE Jimmy Graham (387 rec yds, 5 TD). Both have had plenty of success against Atlanta's secondary, which currently ranks 14th in the NFL with 229 passing YPG allowed. Colston had 15 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown in last year's series, while Graham has found the end zone in all three career meetings with the Falcons, totaling 150 receiving yards. The Saints have the third-worst rushing offense in the league (81 YPG), but they could find some holes in Atlanta's 24th-ranked rushing defense (128 YPG). RB Darren Sproles (foot) will not play, but Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory combined for 136 rushing yards on 23 carries (5.9 YPC) in last week's win over Philadelphia. Before committing two turnovers against the Eagles, New Orleans had just four giveaways over its previous five games. The Falcons have not forced a turnover in two straight games, so ball protection shouldn't be a big issue in this game.