New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
ATLANTA – In what figures to be a competitive NFC South race, division matchups are going to carry extra weight. Even though it’s only Week 3, the stakes feel high as the Atlanta Falcons prepare to host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday with both teams off to 1-1 starts.
The rivalry has been a competitive and contentious one over the years, and the teams have combined to win six of the last nine NFC South titles, so their head-to-head meetings always loom large. The Falcons are aiming for a second consecutive division win after holding off Carolina 31-24 last week. “I think it’s going to be one hell of a division, and the team that leaves with winning the division will have damn sure earned it because they would have to beat some excellent football teams to take that, but that’s a long way away,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters. “I just think right now these four teams in this division are really on their game, and I think it’s going to be a hell of a battle.” New Orleans is trying to avoid dropping to 0-2 against division rivals after losing a 48-40 shootout against undefeated Tampa Bay in Week 1, and it was fortunate to escape with a 21-18 win over Cleveland last week.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -3. O/U: 53.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (1-1): New Orleans hasn’t gotten its ground game going with Mark Ingram suspended to start the season, but the passing attack is clipping along as usual. Michael Thomas is off to a record-setting start with an NFL-record 28 receptions through two games, and he has hit double digits in receptions and topped 100 yards in each of his last two meetings with the Falcons. The secondary was much improved against the Browns after being lit up for 417 passing yards by the Buccaneers, but it will face another tough test in Atlanta.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (1-1): Despite Devonta Freeman being limited to six carries in the season opener and missing last week with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out again on Sunday, the Falcons have been able to establish the run as Tevin Coleman is averaging five yards per carry. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have hooked up 15 times for 233 yards, although the star wide receiver has yet to find the end zone. The defense has been solid despite missing two stars in linebacker Deion Jones (foot) and safety Keanu Neal (knee), but the Saints’ high-powered passing game will provide its toughest test to date.
1. New Orleans QB Drew Brees has topped 300 passing yards in six of his last eight games against Atlanta.
2. Ryan has averaged 333.5 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in his last four home meetings with the Saints.
3. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore has made an interception in each of his last two games versus the Falcons.