NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Falcons at Saints

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Atlanta Falcons (6-8) at New Orleans Saints (6-8)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

*Keys to the game: This is the site that sparked a new purpose from Atlanta owner Arthur Blank to become a tougher, more accountable team in response to Matt Ryan being de-cleated by S Kenny Vaccaro last season with no reaction from Falcons teammates. That toughness campaign is measured in pass-fail terms Sunday in a stadium that has been a house of horrors for the Falcons, who are 1-5 under coach Mike Smith at the Superdome.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has two game plans – one with Julio Jones and one without – and Atlanta’s win-loss quotient rides on the team’s best offensive player returning from a hip injury. The Falcons rushed for 123 yards on 25 carries and running back Jacquizz Rodgers added a 17-yard touchdown down in the opener. The Falcons have been committed to the run down the stretch. They were averaging 27 carries over six games before they had to abandon the run against Pittsburgh last week after falling behind 20-7.

Neither defense does much of anything well, and the game figures to rest in the hands of both quarterbacks. Saints QB Drew Brees is no longer unbeatable at home, but rising consistency from his running backs has helped him before more efficient in the second half of the season.

*Matchup to watch – Falcons CB Robert McClain vs. Saints WR Marques Colston: McClain had an interception in the Week 1 meeting. But noted Falcons killer Colston had five catches for 110 yards and owns a TD catch in four straight home games against Atlanta.

*Player spotlight – Saints RB Mark Ingram: With 60 yards and two touchdowns Week 1, Ingram set the pace for his first career 1,000-yard season in a contract year. He needs 131 yards to reach 1,000.

*Fast facts: Brees is 7-1 at home against the Falcons. … Jones has averaged 224 receiving yards in his past two games before sitting out against Pittsburgh.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

History tells us the game will be tight, an exhibition in precision passing with defenses playing the part of extras. The team that avoids turnovers is still standing come Sunday night, and Atlanta has a plus-11 edge over the Saints in that category.

*Our pick: Falcons 31-27


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