Monday, 27 December 2010 15:54

New Orleans Saints Seek Win Over Atlanta Falcons, On WNF, For Playoff Spot

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Ed Staton,  Louisiana SportsThe defending Super bowl champs Saints (10-4) will tackle the Falcons (12-2) on Monday Night Football at 7:30 before a national television audience at the Georgia Dome in the NFL's game of the week.

The Falcons have an eight-game winning streak and a win over their biggest rival, they can win the NFC South and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints need a victory over the Falcons or a win over Tampa Bay on Sunday to gain a playoff spot.

According to the latest Bodog,com line, the Falcons are the NFC betting favorite to win the Super Bowl at 5-to-2. That places them behind the over-all favorites, the Patriots.

The Saints must stop a quartet of players: quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner, vocal receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez largely responsible for an offense that is ranked in the top 10 in three categories: points per game (26.4), rushing (122.6) and time of possession average (32 minutes, 39 seconds). The Falcons defeated the Saints 27-24 in overtime on Sept. 27 in the Superdome after Garrett Hartley missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.

The Falcons are 19-3 in the Georgia Dome under coach Mike Smith and 19-1 with Ryan as their starter.

The Falcons don't dazzle opponents with footwork, they hammer you with all the basics. They are not rattled by opponents' quick starts. They are not rattled by anything.

If will difficult for the Falcons to beat a team as good as the Saints twice in the same season. In his past four Monday night games, Drew Brees is 4-0 with a 13-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a near-perfect 141.3 passer rating.

The Falcons rushed for 202 yards in their earlier meeting and the Saints gave up 208 yards on the ground last week in a loss to the Ravens. The Falcons will run the ball to keep Brees off the field and control the clock.

Unlike Atlanta, the Saints have had a myriad of injuries to deal with. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas missed a 17 games and their rushing game wasn't the same. However, rookie Chris Ivory became a very good runner as their replacement but has been showed by a pulled hamstring the last couple of weeks. The Saints will need him this week for Brees to open up his passing game.

If Ivory plays, the Saints will be at full strength, and hanging tough with the Ravens last week on the road was a huge testament to how playoff-ready this team is. The Saints still have plenty to prove to the NFC and the Falcons. The fact that the oddsmakers took a half-point away from the home-bound Falcons in this game is a clear indication that the Saints are not to be taken lightly.

The Saints’ offense can push the Falcons to the limit.

Saints coach Sean Payton said this game has a playoff feel. "It's similar to last year's Monday Night Football  game against the Patriots," said Payton. "We knew we were going against a playoff caliber team. It's a big game with where you're the only game on television, everyone's watching and it's very meaningful within our conference."

Brees would like to clinch a playoff spot on Monday night.  "We want to win because we want to win, but what it does for us from a playoff perspective, we lock in a playoff spot," said the quarterback. "Down the line, within the next few weeks if everything goes our way and their way, we could potentially see them again.

"The way I look at this game is you have two very good teams. There's really not a lot of chinks in the armor on either side. It's going to be hard-fought game. It's going to be a physical game, a tight game. We understand the challenge that's ahead of us playing on the road in that venue."

Prediction: Saints win straight up if Chris Ivory plays.

THE Ohio State players suspended for the first five games next season should go pro immediately after the Sugar Bowl. They should play   the game and then sign with an agent of their choice, then drink a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's to celebrate. The players don't need this aggravation. Go the NFL where you'll be paid when someone profits from your name or likeness. You'll be fairly compensated for your contributions to your team's gross revenue. You can benefit from your notoriety and you won't be punished. Or you can stay at Ohio State where the NCAA will force you to miss the first five games of the season for selling signed game-worn gear and merchandise for cash and tattoos...Trivia time: Name the two coaches who have won NCAA football championships and Super Bowls... Former Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs, now Chiefs linebackers coach...Saints No. 1 draft choice Patrick Robinson showed some promise earlier this season, but has been inactive the past two games. A first-round draft choice should at least be a backup for a special teams player this time of the season...Trivia answer: Jimmy Johnson, Cowboys and the University of Miami, and Barry Switzer, Cowboys and Oklahoma...Avoid getting parking tickets by leaving your wipers turned on high...


Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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