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saint5221 11-12-2003 05:48 PM

Sporting news fantasy report Saints Atlanta
I know this is a fantasy report but it has some good analysis of how they think the game will go.

(2-7, 2-2 road)

New Orleans
(4-5, 2-2 home)
Game-day details
Sun., 1 p.m. ET, Louisiana Superdome

By The War Room
For the Sporting News

Warrick Dunn is the key for the Falcons. He looks like Atlanta’s go-to guy in the running game again, and he is the Falcons’ only home run threat against a New Orleans defense that is getting healthy but still is allowing 129.4 rushing yards per game. Expect the Saints to get in the faces of receivers Peerless Price and Brian Finneran, who struggle with the press and don’t have enough help (particularly at quarterback) to make plays when they can get a clean release off the line.

Whether in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, the Falcons lack beef up front and are prone to overpursuing ball carriers. That put them in hot water against Deuce McAllister in Week 7, but the Saints’ running back was outshined by Aaron Brooks in that game. And that was before the Falcons decided to revamp their entire secondary and introduce communication and chemistry problems into their withering passing defense.

5-Star Players

WR Joe Horn, Saints. Though Horn seems to have set up camp in the end zone lately (five TDs in his last five games), he has only two 100-yard games this season. But one of them, a season-best 133-yard effort (which also included a score) came against the Falcons. Horn’s bum knee still is an issue, but not enough of one to make his owners bat an eye at a matchup against Atlanta’s joke of a secondary (league-worst 262.9 passing yards allowed).

RB Deuce McAllister, Saints. The Falcons’ defensive front is small and too often is blown off the ball or sealed off from the play by getting out of position, and the Saints’ offensive line is an emerging run-blocking force. McAllister, a dynamic runner and receiver, has averaged 120 total yards and has scored five TDs in his last three games against Atlanta. You can bank on a seventh straight 100-yard game and at least one more score.

4-Star Players

QB Aaron Brooks, Saints. Brooks has bounced back in a big way from a shaky start, compiling a 9-3 TD/INT ratio in his last five games (including two games against Carolina and one vs. Tampa Bay) by getting more use out of his secondary receivers and throwing into coverage less. The Falcons’ defense still brings a decent pass rush, but Brooks is making smarter decisions under pressure. In Week 7, he went to eight different receivers in dismantling Atlanta with 352 passing yards, three TDs and no interceptions.

TE Alge Crumpler, Falcons. As Atlanta’s passing game has spiraled toward insignificance, so too have Crumpler’s numbers -- pretty steadily, in fact, since his five-catch, 94-yard, one-TD performance in Week 1. He also has been banged up and has seen his opportunities suffer because his blocking efforts haven’t been up to snuff. Still, he should dominate his matchup with Saints safety Jay Bellamy, who lacks the quickness, size and strength to handle Crumpler in the short field and red zone. More success in the running game also will help Crumpler get open over the top.

3-Star Players

K John Carney, Saints.

TE Ernie Conwell, Saints.

RB Warrick Dunn, Falcons. Dunn is coming off a huge week (season highs of 25 carries and 178 rushing yards against the Giants), and history is on his side -- the Falcons jumped on his back for the stretch run after a breakout game last season. Still, T.J. Duckett continues to get the goal-line touches, and Dunn has done so little as a receiver this year that he is almost useless to fantasy owners if he doesn’t get an adequate number of carries. That’s a risky bet against a Saints club that went up on the Falcons by three touchdowns by halftime a few weeks ago.

WR Peerless Price, Falcons. Different opponent, same problems. Price doesn’t get off the line well against pressing defenses (Saints cornerbacks Dale Carter and Fred Thomas are game), and the Falcons’ offensive line isn’t allowing enough time for receivers to get into their routes. On top of it all, QB Kurt Kittner seems wholly incapable of making anything happen downfield, where Price does his best work. The only thing that might make him worth a start this week: Price has the burners to spring a short pass for a long gain, and the Saints’ defensive backs are poor tacklers.

Saints defense/special teams. Sleeper alert: Statistically, New Orleans still has one of the league’s worst defenses. In reality, the Saints are beginning to get healthy and play with continuity and more stamina late in games as all of their bodies return. Most important, though, New Orleans has a golden matchup. Last week’s offensive outburst for Atlanta against the Giants was a mirage, a one-week fluke against a team on the way down. The Saints are making a late playoff run, and they won’t overlook a team they buried only a few weeks ago. With Kurt Kittner trying to keep his head behind a subpar O-line, expect sacks and interceptions from this unit.

2-Star Players

RB T.J. Duckett, Falcons. As he showed last week, Duckett is an excellent short-yardage runner and goal-line back. He also has potential as a feature runner, but coach Dan Reeves simply won’t commit to him. With enough work, Duckett certainly would be a solid start against a Saints defense that lacks talent at linebacker, misses too many tackles and is among the worst in the league against the run. But with Warrick Dunn coming off a huge performance, there’s an even better chance Duckett will get the change-of-pace treatment (seven carries against the Giants) again this week.

WR Brian Finneran, Falcons. Finneran has a significant size advantage over both Saints cornerbacks, Dale Carter and Fred Thomas, but he will have problems getting away from their press coverage and getting separation once in his routes. His owners can’t expect Kurt Kittner to make the required needle-threading throws under the kind of duress he should expect this week for Finneran to reach numbers worthy of a fantasy start.

WR Jerome Pathon, Saints.

WR Donte' Stallworth, Saints. How much of Stallworth’s recent slide can be attributed to playing through a quadriceps injury that finally sidelined him in Weeks 9 and 10? Only Stallworth knows, but we’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy with dazzling physical talents and who scored eight TDs in 13 games last year. The Saints, who suspect Stallworth is babying himself, aren’t as sympathetic. Stallworth torched Atlanta for a 69-yard touchdown in the last game he played, and that was before the Falcons complicated things by benching their starting secondary. If you can, though, wait to be sure Stallworth is healthy.

0-Star Players

Falcons defense/special teams.

K Jay Feely, Falcons.

QB Kurt Kittner, Falcons. If you can find an advantage Kittner has in this matchup -- or just about any matchup, for that matter -- help us out. We couldn’t find one. He is inexperienced, has limited weapons in the passing game and is under constant fire because of cruddy protection up front. The Saints will blitz Kittner from all angles and press his receivers, who can be held up at the line.

WR Michael Lewis, Saints.

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