10 things to know before tonight’s Falcons at Saints kickoff

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Field position is key. Falcons punter Matt Bosher is averaging 52.3 yards per punt, which leads the league.
  9. Repeat of the sweep? In 2014, the Falcons swept both games against the Saints for the first time since 2005.
  10. 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.
Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank walks across the field as he talks with others during team warm ups before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth )

Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank walks across the field as he talks with others during team warm ups before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth )

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

Falcons pull out 25-19 victory over Redskins in OT — Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned in the Falcons’ 25-19 win over the Redskins

Alford’s 59-yard interception return saves the day

What the Falcons had to say after the 25-19 win

Ryan, offense struggle with turnovers

Mark Bradley column: The Frenetic Falcons: Five-and-oh-my!

Roddy White hears support from the crowd

15 comments from Dan Quinn on the Falcons’ victory

Roddy White: ‘I’ll be a Falcons for life’

Tweetcap: Falcons beat Redskins in OT

TEXANS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 48, Texans 21

How the Falcons hammered the Texans — Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-21 win over the Texans

Devonta Freeman stars again for the Falcons

What the Falcons had to say after pummeling the Texans

9 comments from Dan Quinn on the Falcons’ victory

Jeff Schult’z column: Devonta Freeman, 7 TDs — who didn’t see that coming

Schraeder, Matthews keep Watt in check

Hankerson turns in a 100-yard receiving day (second of his career)

Houston’s J.J. Watt tips hat to the Falcons

Former Falcons great Jessie Tuggle honored during Texans game

COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 39, Cowboys 28

Falcons 39, Cowboys 28 — Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 39-28 win over the Cowboys

Mark Bradley’s short takes: Julio, Freeman and the defense

Devonta Freeman is catalyst for Falcons run game

QUOTEBOARD: What the Falcons had to say after beating Dallas

Julio Jones does it again: 12 catches, 164 yards and two touchdowns

Mark Bradley column: A dominant half shows what he Falcons could be

Offensive line cracked the run-game code

Ryan directed second-half fireworks show

Beasley help lead resurgence on defense

Where’s Falcons wide receiver Roddy White?

GIANTS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 24, Giants 20

Falcons 24, Giants 20 — Quarter by Quarter

5 things we learned from Falcons’ 24-20 win over the Giants

Mark Bradley column — Don’t stop believin’: Dan Quinn’s men are 2-0

A record day for Julio Jones: 13 receptions

Kroy Biermann: ‘We’re a ball-attacking team’

EAGLES GAME COVERAGE — FALCONS 26, EAGLES 24

5 things we learned from Falcons’ upset win over Eagles

Matt Ryan leads Falcons to 26-24 win over the Eagles

Jeff Schultz column: An impressive debut by Quinn’s new Falcons

Mark Bradley column: A new year: The Falcons dig deep and hang on

Julio Jones moves into fifth on Falcons’ all-time receiving list

Tevin Coleman powers new rushing attack

Ricardo Allen seals victory in first start at free safety

4 questions with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones after the game

Falcons rookies Beasley, Jarrett make impact

Falcons’ revamped offensive line shows positive signs

Falcons quotes after their victory over the Eagles

Falcons-Eagles: By The Numbers


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