The division battle between the (3-5) New Orleans Saints and the (8-0) Atlanta Falcons is right around the corner as the Black and Gold put a wraps on their practice portion of the work week. Four Saints players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Strief’s loss could be a big one for the offense. Saints fans likely still remember the last time they say Brown on the field. It was last season against the Rams in St. Louis where the Saints offense struggled mightily to keep the St. Louis pressure at bay. Brown gave up sacks and then suffered a season ending injury. “I just learned that every week is different. Each opponent is different. I didn’t play that good against the Rams, they were different then the ends I played before that. So I just learned that you have to prepare each week for each opponent differently.
The Falcons have listed three players as not playing Sunday. Wide receiver Kevin Cone (groin), safety Charles Mitchell (calf), and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) all won’t see action. Weatherspoon leads the team with 52 tackles and is missing his second straight game.
The Atlanta Falcons are having a history making season so far but the message coming out of Georgia is that it is only the half way point of the campaign. An undefeated first half of the season has never happened in franchise history. Why the 8-0 start?
The perfect record has garnered some national attention for the Dirty Birds, more specifically how long can they stay unbeaten? Is it something the team is thinking about? “I think everybody’s focus is just to keep their head down, keep working hard and not worry about anything more than that,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told New Orleans reporters this week. “I think that is one of the reasons we have been successful in the first half of the season. It’s going to be important for us to keep doing that to try and be successful in the second half.”
While Ryan is playing it close to the vest shockingly receiver Roddy White bought into the hype surrounding the team up north as talk of 16-0 has increased. This week at practice the wide out put it out there for all to hear and read the he believes the Falcons have what it takes to run the table. “Offensively and defensively and how we are as a team. The locker room is very, very united right now,” White said after practice back on Wednesday. “We go into every week expecting to win. ... We've still got to be consistent, don't turn the ball over and get turnovers. That's been the key to winning games all over this league. If we continue to do that, we'll be just fine."
White wasn’t the only player to speak about the possibility of perfection. "There's no reason we can't,” said Falcons center and former LSU Tiger Todd McClure. “If we play our game, go out and do what we're supposed to do, we can. The sky's the limit for this team. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Will it be hard this week? Yes.”
Record talk aside the Falcons are playing good football. It may surprise you that offensively they are 7th in the NFL in passing yards averaging 278.1 yards per game.
Ryan has played solidly all season completing 68.9% of his passes (206 of 299) throwing for 2,360 yards to go with 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The fifth year quarterback credits experience as the reason for his success. “I have learned a lot in my five years. I think my preparation has been better. That’s one of the things that you constantly try to improve as a player in this league,” Ryan says. “I think I am at a good place right now. I feel comfortable in our offense and understanding it. Also I have good players around me - guys that are making plays. It’s fun to be a part of that.”
Atlanta is 25th overall on the ground averaging 98.5 yards per game.
The Saints will hold a walk-through on Saturday and then take on their division rivals at noon on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.