The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and CineSport’s Noah Coslov preview Thursday night’s Falcons-Saints game by talking about injuries, the rivalry, the rallies and defending Drew Brees.
(Stop back by AJC.COM later for our Falcons Fan Mailbag from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.)
Here are 10 things to mull over before tonight’s 8:25 p.m. kickoff between the Falcons (5-0) and the struggling New Orleans Saints (1-4) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
- Saints are in “Salary Cap” hell. The Saints are lacking talent because they have bungled the salary cap in a major way. The Saints have $31.8 million in dead salary cap space, money going to players no longer on the roster. Some of the players include tight end Jimmy Graham, (9 million), guard Ben Grubbs (6 million), linebacker Junior Galette (5.45 million) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (5 million). Every team has dead cap money, but not to this extent.
- Falcons dead money. The Falcons have $14.1 million in dead money with the leaders being guard Justin Blalock (4.1 million), tackle Sam Baker (2.8 million), safety Thomas DeCoud (1.2 million), running back Steven Jackson (1.1 million) and center Joe Hawley (1 million).
- Julio Jones updates. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was listed as probable. He has played every time that he’s been listed probable this season. He’s expected to play.
- The Saints defense is wretched. The Saints are giving up 409 yards per game, which ranks last (32nd) in the league. They are giving up 135.8 yards rushing per game (30th), 28.6 points (29th, tie) and 273.2 passing yards per game (23rd). The Saints gave up 519 yards and 34 first downs to the Eagles.
- Unleash the pass rush. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is a former defensive line coach by trade. One of the areas he’s been working on to improve has been the pass rush. The Falcons only have six sacks, which is tied for 29th in the league. The Saints have been sacked 15 times.
- Will the run defense hold up? The Falcons are first in the league against the run, giving up 78.4 yards per game. But teams have averaged a league low 20 attempts against the Falcons. The defense is giving up 3.9 yards per carry, which is ranked 13th in the league.
- Freeman and Coleman. The Falcons will remain with the hot hand in Freeman, but Tevin Coleman will play. Freeman leads the NFL with 645 yards from scrimmage and with eight rushing touchdowns.
- Field position is key. Falcons punter Matt Bosher is averaging 52.3 yards per punt, which leads the league.
- Repeat of the sweep? In 2014, the Falcons swept both games against the Saints for the first time since 2005.
- Last meeting: The Falcons beat the Saints 30-14 at the Superdome on Dec. 14, 2014. The Falcons lead the series 48-43 in the regular season. The Falcons will try to win consecutive road games against the New Orleans Saints for the first time in 13 seasons.
How did the Falcons get to 5-0?
Here’s a look back at the game stories, news and notes from their victories over the Redskins (25-19 in OT), Texans (48-21), Cowboys (39-28), Giants (24-20) and Eagles (26-24).
WASHINGTON GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 25, Redskins 19 in OT
TEXANS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 48, Texans 21
COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 39, Cowboys 28
GIANTS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 24, Giants 20
EAGLES GAME COVERAGE — FALCONS 26, EAGLES 24