Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Atlanta Falcons
- QuarterbackFor those who have followed this team through the decades, it may seem counter-intuitive to realize that the Saints have become one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. Much of that is due to Drew Brees, who is among the sharpest leaders in the game and a very accurate passer. Brees completed 68.6 percent of his passes last year and had a 39-12 TD interception ratio.The Falcons start the year with a chance to put the pain and embarrassment of the 2013 season behind them. Matt Ryan has much of the responsibility on his shoulders, and he knows how to win regular-season games. Ryan is an accurate passer who knows how to attack the weak spots in opposing defenses.
- OffenseThe Saints have been able to remain consistent during the last six years because they have built an attacking team that can light up the scoreboard. Tight end Jimmy Graham is their best offensive weapon because he is a nightmarish matchup for opposing defensive backs. Marques Colston knows how to get open and is solid on third downs. The running game should be capable.The biggest reason for the Falcons’ demise last year was the injury-plagued seasons of wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Both are healthy again, and both are motivated to show that they give the Falcons the best pair of receivers in the league. Running back Steven Jackson appears close to the end, but he may have one more decent season as a power runner.
- DefenseDefensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been a very good fit for the Saints because he has brought the team an effective attacking scheme and he knows how to motivate players. Outside linebacker Junior Galette is coming off an outstanding 12.0-sack season and he should be the key to the pass rush. Instinctive Jairus Byrd and hard-hitting Kenny Vacarro may form the best pair of young safeties in the league.The Falcons had a tough time competing last year after versatile Kroy Biermann was injured early in the year, but he returns and that should help the team’s competitiveness on defense. Atlanta has lacked size on the defensive side of the ball for several years, but Paul Worrilow and William Moore gives the team a hard-hitting presence.
- Special TeamsPunter Thomas Morstead has a huge leg (42.3-yard net) and is one of the best in the league. He has the ability to flip field position every time he kicks. Travaris Cadaret will handle both the punt and kickoff return responsibilities.The Falcons upgraded their return game in the offseason when they signed former Bears return specialist Devin Hester. Matt Bryant has been a consistent kicker for the Falcons, as he made 24-of-27 FG attempts last year.
This game has huge meaning for the Falcons after their disappointing 2013 season. If they can open the season with a win over their arch-rivals, it could put Atlanta in a good position to make a run this year. Look for a sensational effort from the home team. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports