This season couldn’t really have started any better for the Atlanta Falcons and first-year head coach Dan Quinn. Much less can be said about the New Orleans Saints, who seem to have a lack of talent on both sides of the ball for the first time in a long while.
Atlanta is 5-0 for the second time in franchise history after beating the entire NFC East by a combined 23 points and the Houston Texans by 27 points in Week 4. New Orleans sits at 1-4 as they’ve been outscored by 30 points this year, picking up their lone win on Sunday Night Football in overtime over Dallas two weeks ago.
Playing on a short week is always tough, but the Falcons have all the confidence in the world even if star wide receiver Julio Jones isn’t 100 percent. Quinn listed Jones as probable and told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the Falcons’ No. 1 wide receiver’s hamstring actually feels better this week.
That’s huge news for Atlanta, who is one of six teams currently undefeated and one of four teams that are 5-0. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter pointed out something very interesting about this Falcons group.
Heading into tonight, Falcons are first NFL team to start 5-0 with 4 of those wins coming when trailing at some point in the 4th quarter.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 15, 2015
The biggest weapon in this NFC South matchup is Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman. The second-year FSU product is shining under the direction of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Freeman has a league-leading eight rushing scores and 645 yards from scrimmage. His 405 rushing yards are second to Chicago Bears back Matt Forte.
“You know how you can just tell when people are different and just how they go about and play the game of football? He’s a different kind of guy,” Falcons wide receiver Roddy White said about Freeman via ESPN. “He goes out there and gives everything he’s got. That’s why he’s so special. In the run game and in the pass game and all the things that he’s able to do for us, he’s a special player.
Fresh off a game where they allowed 519 total yards of offense and 34 first downs, New Orleans is going to have a tough time containing the high-powered Falcons offense.
The Saints are giving up a league-worst 409 total yards, 135.8 yards rushing yards, 28.6 points and 273.2 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks own a passer rating of 108.2 against Rob Ryan’s unit, so for Matt Ryan, who has a 90.7 QB rating this season, he should be able to take advantage.
Atlanta’s ranked as the third-best scoring offense with 32.4 points and four touchdowns per game. Perhaps the most telling stat that shows why the Falcons have been successful is the fact that they are first in the league in time of possession (34:24).
On the other side of the ball, Quinn’s improved defensive unit is allowing a league-low 78.4 rushing yards per game with teams averaging 20.1 carries per game compared to last year’s average of 28.1
At home, New Orleans will play a much more competitive game as Drew Brees continues to get comfortable with his new offensive weapons in C.J. Spiller and Willie Snead. Veteran wide receiver Marques Colston and left tackle Terron Armstead (knee) are both listed as doubtful. Rookie first-round tackle Andrus Peat will start in Armstead’s place while the Saints will get back guard Jahri Evans after he missed three games due to a knee injury.
The Falcons are on fire right now and if Dan Quinn’s defense can continue to make plays they should be able to pick up a sixth victory on Thursday night.