Week 17 Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Atlanta Falcons

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    The Saints would like nothing better than to hand the Falcons a loss in the last game of the season and keep them from going into the playoffs with momentum. If that is going to happen, Drew Brees is going to need one of his classic games in which he finds his big-play receivers consistently and dominates with his downfield passing.
    The Falcons have had an excellent season to this point, and Matt Ryan has done a good job of stepping away from pressure, buying time with his athleticism and then connecting with his receivers. Ryan is usually at his best when he gets off to a good start. When he has to mount a come-from-behind effort, he often feels the pressure and throws the ball into tight coverage windows.
  • Offense
    The Saints have been one of the best offensive teams in the league since the start of the season, but they still have a losing record and have not always been at their best in game-winning situations or against talented defensive teams. Mark Ingram is a solid running back, while Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener have given Brees a crew of excellent receivers.
    The Falcons have the No. 2 offense in the league, and they have proven to have one of the most versatile offensive attacks. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman form the best 1-2 punch at the running back position. Julio Jones is basically unstoppable when he is healthy because of skill and athletic gifts. Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are both big-time gamebreakers.
  • Defense
    It’s no surprise that the Saints rank near the bottom of the league when it comes to all-around defensive play, but they are better than they were last year and they have shown that they can stop the run against many opponents. If the Saints have any chance to slow Ryan down, Cameron Jordan needs to have a big day rushing the passer.
    The Falcons tend to get pushed around on defense when they face challenging offensive teams, and that appears likely against the Saints. However, they have one of the best pass rushers in the league in Vic Beasley (14.5 sacks), and when he gets an early sack, he is a major force. The Falcons need to do a better job of holding on at the point of attack.
  • Special Teams
    The Saints probably could have helped themselves to one or two more wins this season if they had been able to do a better job of making big plays in the return game. Will Lutz is an ordinary placekicker who struggles on longer kicks.
    The Falcons have had the edge on their opponents when it comes to both punt and kickoff returns, and Eric Weems is a threat to make positive plays every time he gets his hands on the ball. Matt Bryant is a solid placekicker who is very cool in pressure situations.
The Falcons are likely to get pushed hard by the Saints, but they are not going to let this opportunity slip through their grasp.

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