New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons: 5 Bold Predictions

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints will host their archrivals the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. Central, and the game will be televised regionally by FOX, locally on WVUE-TV FOX Channel 8.

Coming into this contest, the Saints have a (7-1) win-loss record and will be seeking what would be their seventh straight win as well as their 8th win out of their first nine games of the 2019 NFL season. As of this writing, New Orleans is a 13-point favorite to win this Sunday’s contest.

Meanwhile, the (1-7) Falcons will be looking for their 2nd win of the entire year, after battling a nightmare of a regular season thus far. They’ve dramatically fallen from a playoff contender to one of the League’s worst teams.

The Dirty Birds, who are just three seasons removed from an appearance in Super Bowl LI (51), are struggling mightily under NFL defensive “guru” and 4th-year head coach Dan Quinn, who many observers and analysts feel is on the “hot seat” and could potentially be fired by Falcons management.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding this Sunday’s contest, the Falcons still shouldn’t be taken lightly; NFC South divisional games are typically always hard-fought, and this game will be no exception.

With that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s 5 bold predictions for this Sunday’s contest.

5. Saints Cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones Have a Heated Exchange That Nearly Leads to an All-Out Brawl

Third-year Saints starting #1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore is having a great season so far, essentially “shutting down” some of the NFL’s top-caliber wide receivers in one-on-one match-ups, including Cowboys WR Amari Cooper, Buccaneers WR Mike Evans, and Jaguars WR DJ Chark.

This week he draws an old familiar face in Falcons All-Pro WR Julio Jones, who Lattimore already has a storied history against dating back to his rookie season in 2017. Jones essentially is Atlanta’s only true weapon this season for their offense, and in eight games has caught 50 passes for 712 yards and 4 TDs.

However, in Sunday’s game, Lattimore and Jones will be going so hard against each other that when Lattimore breaks up a pass intended for Jones on an early but critical 3rd-down-and-7 play, the two start getting in each other’s face, and their heated exchange nearly leads to an all-out brawl between the two teams. Both men are then penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Falcons are still forced to punt.

4. Alvin Kamara Returns to the Starting Line-Up and Has a Stellar Day Against the Struggling Falcons Defense

After having missed the Saints’ last two games with minor knee and ankle injuries, starting #1 RB Alvin Kamara is expected to start this Sunday against the Falcons. The Dirty Birds have actually done well against the young superstar in their four games against him and have limited him to ZERO touchdowns in every single one of their previous meetings.

That said, Atlanta had been playing much better defensively in those past match-ups and was able to successfully limit Kamara from having any sort of big day statistically. This season, however, the Dirty Birds have incurred a slew of injuries along with a notable regression performance-wise that currently has them ranked near the bottom (24th overall) of the League.

In Sunday’s contest, Kamara will finally have a “break-through” performance versus Atlanta, as he carries the ball 16 times for 84 yards rushing and his first-ever TD against them while adding another 72 yards from scrimmage on six catches out of the backfield in the receiving game as well.

3. The Saints Defense Makes Life Completely Miserable for Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan

As Who Dat fans are well aware, a huge part of the Saints’ early-season success was the phenomenal performance of the defense, which in the past several weeks has arguably been of the best defensive units in the entire League.

In this Sunday’s contest at the Superdome, the Black and Gold will face starting Falcons #1 QB Matt Ryan, who hasn’t been nearly as sharp this season as he has been in previous years (15 TD passes but with 8 interceptions) and has a (1-6) win-loss record as a starter. Ryan will be returning to action in this game after he missed Atlanta’s last game two weeks ago, with an ankle injury.

On Sunday the Saints defense will make Ryan completely miserable as they repeatedly apply pressure on the 12-year veteran and sack him three different times, along with an additional seven QB “pressures” and five QB “hits” that make for a very long day for the Falcons offense.

2. Saints QB Drew Brees Has a Superb Performance, Boosted by the Returns of Tre’Quan Smith and Jared Cook

On his return to the team’s starting line-up after missing five games with a torn thumb ligament, Saints’ #1 QB Drew Brees picked up right where he left off before the surgery and recovery. He had an impressive performance in the Saints’ 31-9 win at home over Arizona two weeks ago. In that game, the 19th-year veteran completed 34-out-of-43 pass attempts for 373 yards and 3 TDs with one interception as the team cruised to its sixth consecutive victory.

But Brees, as well as back-up Teddy Bridgewater — who went undefeated (5-0) as the starter in Brees’ absence — have somehow managed to put up impressive numbers offensively in spite of a WR corps that has lacked in production outside of All-Pro Michael Thomas, who leads the entire NFL in total receptions (73) and receiving yardage (875).

However, in Sunday’s game both #3 WR Tre’Quan Smith and starting #1 TE Jared Cook will return to the lineup after they each missed the last few games with injuries, and their presence in the Saints offense will be felt immediately. Both catch a TD pass from Brees, who has another superb performance against the Falcons, completing 29-out-of 33 passes for 422 yards and 4 TDs.

1. The Black and Gold Have the Lead Heading into the 4th Quarter When…

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A Matt Ryan 32-yard TD pass to a wide-open WR Calvin Ridley against Saints #2 CB Eli Apple in man-to-man pass coverage cuts the New Orleans lead down to a score of 23-13 with nearly 11 minutes remaining to play.

As noted above, NFC South Division games are always tough no matter what each team’s win-loss records are, and with the Falcons being the Saints’ archrivals for the past 50-plus years, they aren’t going down without a fight in this Sunday’s game. But the Falcons TD serves as sort of a wake-up call for the Saints offense, and they quickly strike back with a 72-yard catch-and-run by Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown, and the Saints extend their lead back to a three-score advantage by a tally of 30-13.

On the very next Falcons drive, Ryan is sacked by Saints 2nd-year defensive end Marcus Davenport, who strips Ryan of the football before it is picked up and returned for a fumble-recovery TD by Saints rookie safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson for his first-ever NFL score.

Ryan is pulled from the game and replaced by back-up Falcons #2 QB Matt Schaub, who puts up some decent passing yardage numbers in “garbage-time” as the game-clock eventually winds down to less than three minutes remaining. After Atlanta misses a 44-yard field goal attempt, New Orleans then takes over possession of the ball and essentially runs out the clock for their 7th victory in a row — with a trip to Tampa, Florida to face another division rival in the Buccaneers, up next on their schedule.

FINAL SCORE: Saints 37, Falcons 13

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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