Here we go... what better way to start the second half of the season than against your top rival, the New Orleans Saints? It's been a whirlwind of a season for the Falcons, as they currently sit 4-6, 2nd in the NFC South. A win on Sunday would be more than just a moral victory over the Falcon's top rival, it would put them back in first place. Yeah, first place at 5-6 (I'll take it). It was also announced that Desmond Ridder will be the Falcons starting QB for the rest of the season (more on that below). As always we have much to discuss, so let's waste no time and get into it!
(Since it's rivalry week, why not relive one of my favorite Falcons Vs. Saints memories)
Starting with scouting the New Orleans Aints (I mean Saints), who currently hold that first place in the South at 5-5. Offensively, the Saints rank 16th in points and 13th in yards. Derek Carr has been at the helm for the Saints throwing for 2,231 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Alvin Karma started the season on suspension but has returned and ran for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kamara has also contributed as a receiver, catching 50 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. With the Saint's offense, the Falcons must be conscious of the Swiss army knife Taysom Hill. The veteran currently tallies a passing touchdown, three rushing touchdowns, and a receiving touchdown on the 2023 campaign. Additionally, Hill is the second-leading rusher on the Saints. Even though I despise the Saints, Hill's ability to perform in all skill positions is impressive.
Defensively, something the Saints have been known for in recent years, are ranked eighth in points and yards against. Demario Davis and Cameron Jordan are the leaders of this Saint's defense, with six sacks combined (more on Davis below), but Jordan only has two of those sacks, and thank the heavens because Jordan always seems to dominate Atlanta. Paulson Adebo has been a turnover machine for the Saints, recording four interceptions, forcing two fumbles, and recovering two. Good news for Atlanta, the Saints rank 20th in rushing yards given up. So expect the Falcons to unleash the two-headed monster (Robinson and Allgeier) against the Saints.
Date: November 23, 2023
Start Time: 1pmET/11amPT
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
TV Info: FOX
Key Players- Offense
Desmond Ridder- Falcons QB
As mentioned, Ridder has been officially named the Falcons starter for the rest of the season. This will give Ridder seven more games to prove himself as an NFL starter, and the Falcons' future starter. Ridder has shown flashes of excellence when he has to fit passes in tight windows and using his legs. However, the turnovers have been holding Ridder back, he's thrown six interceptions and has lost two fumbles. I'm all for this decision (just like I was all for Ridder being benched after the Tennesee game). Heincke didn't spark the offense like I thought he would, so give it back to the youngster and let him prove himself one final time. Here are some nice quotes from Ridder on his performance in the first half of the season and what he expects of himself.
Chris Olave- Saints WR
Olave has 30 more targets than any other Saints WR, and the guy behind him, Michael Thomas, is on the IR, so that would put Olave 38 targets ahead of the second-most targets Saints. Olave currently has caught 56 of those targets for 657 and 3 touchdowns. If Atlanta can take Olave out of the game, it should make the day a little harder for Carr and the offense, because apparently he doesn't target anyone else...
Key Players- Defense
A.J. Terrell- Falcons DB
Since Olave is the Saint's Key player on offense this week, I figured why not choose the guy who will be in charge of slowing him down? Terrell has been very impressive the last two weeks, as he's only allowed 10 yards on 3 receptions, with a total of 66 coverage snaps. Terrell has also only allowed a 57.1% completion percentage this season. Terrell has yet to record an interception this season, so maybe Carr can serve one on a platter. Regardless, the Olave vs. Terrel matchup should be a fun one and some for the future between the Falcons and Saints rivalry.
Demario Davis- Saints LB
The 12-year NFL veteran leads this New Orleans team in tackles (73) and has sprinkled in four sacks. Davis has 19 more tackles than any other Saint. I suppose being 34 years old means nothing for Davis. It'll be a must for the Falcons O-line to keep Davis out of the backfield and carry Ridder to a successful start to the second half of the season.
Points Spread: NO -1.5 (-115) | ATL +105 (-105)
Moneyline: NO (-120) | ATL (+102)
Over/Under: O 41.5 (-110) | U 41.5 (-110)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, November 24th
Atlanta is coming fresh off their bye last week (after not having the first half they wanted), ranked 24th in points and 15th in yards, but Atlanta does have the seventh-ranked rushing attack. On the other side of the ball, the defense is ranked 18th in points and 7th in yards.
So, how can Atlanta win this game and have a successful second half? Well, giving the ball to your playmakers is a start. Let Bijan work in space, give him the ball via screens or outside handoffs, and let him run free. Using Ridder's legs is a must, take some pressure off of him when throwing the ball, and let him be an athlete. Get the ball downfield to Pitts and London, I would rather see Ridder intercepted while giving these two a chance to go up for the ball. Something I haven't been doing much this season is giving some love to the big boys up front, mainly due to the QB controversy and the coaching. But wow look how good they've been.
Atlanta's defense has been impressive this year, but a lot of that has been spoiled by the Falcon's offense putting them in a bad position consistently. The big thing that has held the defense back is the pass rush, Ryan Nielson has to find a way to pressure his former team, and if not, things could get very ugly for the Dirty Birds.
Finally, Atlanta cannot shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. They will have no chance of winning if they lose the field potion battle. I would really like to pick Atlanta to win this game, especially coming off the bye. However, until proven otherwise, I have to choose ATL to drop this game (praying I'm wrong). But, if Ridder can limit the turnovers and Arthur Smith can feed his playmakers, Atlanta will have a chance. Arthur, please prove me wrong!
Prediction: New Orleans Saints 21, Atlanta Falcons 14
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