3TFO: Falcons @ Saints, Week 10
The Atlanta Falcons take their undefeated 8-0 record to the Superdome this week in an exciting NFC South matchup. This game looks much different than it did before the season, with the Saints floundering at 3-5, though the Falcons won’t be any less motivated after getting swept last season by their division rivals. There are plenty of other storylines too, including Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton playing against his former team.
Coming off a short week, will the Saints play with the same intensity they showed in their win on Monday, or will they lay an egg at home, as they’ve done earlier this season? The Falcons should be able to score against a defense that’s been historically bad through eight games. We’ll see whether Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense can keep up.
The Saints are coming off their best game of the season in terms of pressuring the quarterback, albeit against a porous and injury-riddled Eagles offensive line. Replicating that performance against Matt Ryan is unlikely, though they should be able to get some pressure. The Falcons line ranks 24th in Pass Blocking Efficiency with 94 pressures allowed and can be susceptible on the right side, where Tyson Clabo and rookie Peter Konz have both graded negatively this season. That’s good news for Saints end Cameron Jordan, who had his best game of the season on Monday with nine QB disruptions. He’ll look to exploit Clabo similarly to how players such as Charles Johnson have done so this season, but don’t necessarily expect that to happen – despite their success against the Eagles, Jordan and right end Will Smith still rank among the worst 4-3 ends in Pass Rush Productivity.
New Orleans should have some opportunities to get to Ryan, as his average time in the pocket before attempting a pass is 2.56 seconds, just below the league-average of 2.57. And the Falcons will have a lot of designed quick throws, where the ball comes out on the first read, but they also like to take shots downfield with their talented receivers. To give their front-four a chance, the Saints’ defensive backs will need to have good initial coverage (something they might be incapable of doing) and make Ryan stand in the pocket and go to his secondary reads. Steve Spagnuolo should be wary of blitzing, though, as Ryan is one of the league’s best with a 102.1 QB rating against the blitz.
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