NFC South Report: Can Falcons end party in New Orleans?

The Falcons will be face to face with the NFL's best team Monday night.

The Falcons will be face to face with the NFL's best team Monday night.

Is there anything the Falcons can do to stop the celebrating in New Orleans?

It’s time again for a peek behind enemy lines in the NFC South. The Saints are threatening to make the division title an afterthought by November.

But first: a story. Twenty-six years ago — yes, I am that old — I was working in Los Angeles covering the Rams, this before Georgia Frontiere ran them into the ground with the intent on moving them to St. Louis. I’d like to think Eric Dickerson and I broke into the NFL the same year: 1983. That season, Dickerson ran crazy and I actually did several stories with O.J. Simpson, who liked Dickerson, lived in L.A., was a great quote and, as a bonus, never threatened to kill me.

Anyway, the Rams had a huge season-ending game that season at New Orleans. Both teams were 8-7. The winner likely would get an NFC wildcard berth. The Saints had never been to the playoffs so it was kind of a big deal. Everybody was drunk on Bourbon St. the night before the game (granted, not a rarity). They yelled, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” They wore “Who Dat?” T-shirts.

Saints fans don't need much of a reason to celebrate so you can imagine how they're reacting to a 6-0 start.

Saints fans don't need much of a reason to celebrate so you can imagine how they're reacting to a 6-0 start.

The next day, the Rams won, 26-24, to go to the playoffs. Dickerson, never shy around a microphone, laughed after the game about the “Who Dat” shirts and said, “You watch. There’s gonna be a fire sale on those things tonight.” And he was right. A few of us hard-working journalists returned to the French Quarter Sunday evening and the shirts were marked down to half off.

All of this was a long way of telling you that Saints fans are easily excitable. They love to party. They love to celebrate, and sometimes do so a little prematurely. It’s probably one reason why, after a 6-0 going into Monday’s game against the Falcons, coach Sean Payton felt the need Tuesday to bring everybody back down to earth Tuesday.

This is the best start in New Orleans franchise history since 1991, when the team started 7-0. What happened that year? The Saints went 4-5 in the final nine weeks and then lost their first playoff game — to Jerry Glanville’s Falcons, 27-20.

Payton told the New Orleans media (and therefore was sending a message to fans): “If a month from now when [NBA fans] are talking about, ‘If the playoffs started today,’ with 60 games left, that would be similar. We have a lot of tough games left on the schedule.”

“I do think it’s premature — that’s just my opinion after six weeks, knowing that there are 10 games left — to begin talking about seeding. … We understand why there is interest in a team that’s 6-0, and yet we do understand that we’re still two games away from being at the halfway point.”

That said, if the Saints win this game — and the line has moved from 8 1/2 to 10 points — they’ll already have a three-game lead over the Falcons in the division. That would be something for Saints fans to shout about.

♦ ♦ ♦

♦ Trivia time: Can you name the five current NFL franchises that have never played in a Super Bowl?

Time’s up: Well, one was obvious: New Orleans. The other four: Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions. (The Houston Oilers never went to the Super Bowl but the franchise did after relocating as the Tennessee Titans.

♦ ♦ ♦

Here's a picture of Tampa Bay cheerleaders in London. They didn't seem to care that the Bucs were getting run over again.

Tampa Bay cheerleaders didn't seem to care that the Bucs were getting run over in London.

If there’s one certainty, it’s that New Orleans is the only team in the division the Falcons have to worry about. Bringing up the rear:

♦ TAMPA BAY: Things are going so bad in Tampa that some are wondering whether the team already has quit on coach Raheem Morris and he might get fired during the season. The Bucs are 0-7 and there’s no sign of improvement. They’re also making the move to rookie quarteback Josh Freeman, following the failures of Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson. St. Petersburg Times columnist John Romano wonders if Morris and general manager Mark Dominik might be risking their own futures by starting the 21-year-old Freeman (although we’re probably past the point of risk).

“It is their necks, so it has to be their call. … If they doubt that, they might want to ask Bruce Coslet how his career worked out after starting Akili Smith in his fifth game as a pro. Or they might want to check with Marty Mornhinweg, who put Joey Harrington in the lineup in his third game. Ask Dom Capers about David Carr or Mike Nolan about Alex Smith. The roadside is filled with NFL coaches whose careers were dinged by first-round quarterback flops. … Yes, I know about Ben Roethlisberger. I know about Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. They were starters early in their rookie seasons and were huge successes. What does that tell you? It tells you they were extremely talented and mature players. It tells you they were further ahead of the curve than most rookie quarterbacks. It tells you they were in the right system with the right talent around them. And none of that automatically or necessarily applies to Freeman.”

According to Romano, Freeman (21 years, nine months) would be the fourth youngest starter in the past decade, behind only Michael Vick (21 years, four months), Alex Smith (21 years, four months) and Matthew Stafford (21 years, seven months).

It's never good when the Buffalo Bills make you look bad.

It's never good when the Buffalo Bills make you look bad.

♦ CAROLINA: Goodbye Jake Delhomme? (Finally?) Panthers coach John Fox, who can probably carpool with Morris to the unemployment line before long, won’t commit to a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game at Arizona.

“The reality is we’re not operating very well there, and I don’t know if status quo is necessarily the answer or not. … We definitely need to do whatever it takes to get better. If that entails a quarterback change, that’s what it’ll entail.”

Delhomme is the league’s 32nd ranked quarterback, and he leads the league with 13 interceptions. With Josh McCown on injured reserve, Fox’s only choices for a replacement are Matt Moore and A.J. Feeley.

Wonder what Fox and Morris think when they see Drew Brees and Matt Ryan?

88 comments Add your comment

Jeff Schultz

October 28th, 2009
7:16 am

SimpleDawg

October 28th, 2009
7:22 am

Raheem Morris was a mistake hire in Tampa. Old players without talent and a rookie head coach make poor bed fellows.

The Panthers have no one to play QB, except Delhomme. I’d certainly start him when they next play the Falcons….the first time was his best game of the season, but then the Falcons have made several QBs look really good.

The Falcons are facing another “Custer’s Last Stand” in the Super Dome this coming Monday. Last time they were set up and ambushed. This time they can see the train coming….they just can’t get off of the track.

So far, both of the “Big Games” the Falcons have played this year have resulted in an embarrassing loss. Bright lights, big stage, certainly expose glaring weaknesses.

I hope we can finish 9 – 7.

oldbird

October 28th, 2009
7:32 am

I’m not certain there’s a team in the NFL that can hang with what the Saints bring on offense. That being said, I only hope the birds represent themselves by playing tough and hanging in as best they can on Monday night.

The Jets were the only team who really pressured Brees and that was done with the multitude of blitz packages Ryan tends to create on cocktail napkins. I don’t think our DC has the players or the schemes to cause Brees too much difficulty.

Please Jebus…don’t let the birds get down 28 nothing in the first quarter…

defactodawg

October 28th, 2009
7:40 am

Hey Jeff, there’s no glory in being first on your own blog! I enjoy your work and look forward to the countdown every week. Keep it going.

Jeff Schultz

October 28th, 2009
7:42 am

Defactodawg — So I’m not eligible for first “honors”? Dang!
OK, by default: congrats SimpleDawg

T-Bone

October 28th, 2009
7:44 am

JS, thanks for the cheerleaders.

Can we just cancel the rest of the Bucs games and just watch the cheerleaders?

T-Bone

October 28th, 2009
7:45 am

Question: Is there any glory in being first on any blog?

defactodawg

October 28th, 2009
8:00 am

T-bone – short answer is none. I’ve never understood that whole concept. And I agree with your other post, maybe Jeff could do more of his patented digi-blogs focusing on the other talent at the stadiums

Jeff Schultz

October 28th, 2009
8:11 am

On concept of cheerleader Digi-Blogs … Question: How many pictures can I take before I get arrested? Or run over by my wife.

FalconUGAFan

October 28th, 2009
8:13 am

Here’s my vote for more cheerleader pics, especially ones that can high kick like that…. What??? That takes alot of athletic ability is all I’m sayin…..

Nativebird

October 28th, 2009
8:13 am

Miami showed that Saints are beatable if you can close. I was there last year in New Orleans, we win that game against predominently the same offense if Boley simply catches that 4th quarter gift in his hands, and our rookie QB doesn’t throw a rookie “stare down” out pass that YOU and I could have a coffee and a bagel before we intercept it.
Hey Mularkey! How about a screen pass every now and then when everyone in the building knows their blitzing every play! How this guy is considered a strong OC is beyond me. With lesser talent on the offense (hint: buffalo) we LOSE the Chicago game, maybe even another. the Atlanta offense would be ranked even lower. Ryan, White and Gonzalez is BAILING out a very very poor OC.
It will be tough, but these Birds HAVE the capability to beat this good New Orleans team…the question is, will they simply decide to do it.

Thanks, Jeff

October 28th, 2009
8:32 am

Will you please do that “FIRST” thing for every column? That will teach the low lifes!

Herschel Talker

October 28th, 2009
8:33 am

FIRE BOOBY COX!

How come...

October 28th, 2009
8:36 am

…everytime the Falcons have the national stage to themselves they lay an egg? Monday night will be worse than last Sunday!

Any bettors want to take the bet as to who gets the worst whippin’ this weekend(into Monday night), the ‘Birds or the Dawgs?

Ted Striker

October 28th, 2009
8:36 am

Tampa and Carolina are having terrible seasons — however gamblers betting on their weekly opposition have been ABSOLUTELY HAMMERING their bookies.

SDM

October 28th, 2009
8:37 am

“According to Romano, Freeman (21 years, nine months) would be the third youngest starter in the past decade, behind only Michael Vick (21 years, four months), Alex Smith (21 years, four months) and Matthew Stafford (21 years, seven months).”

Umm.. wouldn’t that make him the fourth-youngest ?

balla4life

October 28th, 2009
8:39 am

Do you think that we need to move anderson to dt and beerman to starting de

cattle dawg

October 28th, 2009
8:46 am

Jeff, with all the pics of late I feel ur blog is kinda becoming soft core porn. Keep up the good work

Jeff Schultz

October 28th, 2009
8:50 am

UDM — um, could be. Let me perform a little surgery.

Cattle Dawg — I hear porn gets page views. But I’ve got to stop WELL short of that.

Chef menteur

October 28th, 2009
8:50 am

SAINTS over the Birdies 53 -10. It is gonna be UGLY

bigeasy830

October 28th, 2009
8:52 am

I told you CHUMPS that the Saints were going to be a very good team this year because Gregg Williams would bring a toughness to that defense and that team. Sean Payton is a very good coach but he is a finesse guy. Gregg Williams brings an old school approach to a defense that had some talent last year and added more talent during the off season. I hate the Falcons and I hope they lose by 20 to the Saints, but you fair weather fans are jumping ship when your team is 4-2 and the sechdule is very favorable in the second half of the season. But the again most of you just post on blogs and do not really invest the time and energy to truely support your team.

“Look Who’s back, You Suckers!!!!!”

tixholdersince66

October 28th, 2009
8:59 am

As a former womanizer, my game plan was “Go Ugly Early”. Afraid Monday Night will bring the same results. No pass rush, no secondary, weak running game, against the #1 offense= “Ugly Early”, and I am a die hard falcoholic. Just the facts Mam!!

bigeasy830

October 28th, 2009
9:00 am

O.J. may not have said it but who knows what he was thinking. I’m just saying…. Scary thought isn’t it.

Happy Holloween, You Suckers!!!!!

Greg Norton is HOT!!!

October 28th, 2009
9:01 am

Gonna be a tough weekend for me I do believe. Dawgs and Falcons are both in some trouble! I’d be thrilled if just one of them won!

Greg Norton is HOT!!!

October 28th, 2009
9:02 am

What are your odds oh great handicapper Jeff Schultz that one of my teams will win this weekend??

Just An Observation

October 28th, 2009
9:02 am

Here’s hoping that the Falcons can pull off the upset, but it will definitely be a major uphill battle with our current CBs.

Houston and Grimes (who should not even be starting corners on any team in the NFL) will not be able to cover the Saints WRs without intense blitz packages.

Eric

October 28th, 2009
9:03 am

Doesn’t look good for the Falcons. Drew Brees and the Saints are kicking some butt. I think they’ll do the same to the Birds. If they’d had a better game in Dallas I might have a better feeling about it. Maybe they’ll bounce back after N.O.

FalconUGAFan

October 28th, 2009
9:08 am

Bigeasy830 welcome back my friend. Yes your Saints look very good, No, some of us falcons fans are still here with our 4-2 record and here is some time and energy for ya, big guy.

Atlanta leads the overall series 44 – 33 – 0 and the playoff series 1 – 0.

Best of luck, my friend.

FalconUGAFan

October 28th, 2009
9:15 am

My bad I left out 2008 stats: Over all series is Atlanta 45 – 34

gofalconsgo

October 28th, 2009
9:17 am

Please excuse my attempt at humor and I mean no religous disrespect because I am a Christian man; but it appears Jesus and 10 of his disciples couldn’t beat New Orleans in New Orleans. Especially on Monday night when we always play bad before the national audience and the”Cajuns” have all day to get liquored up. They had thousands of people meet them at the airport the other night just because they came back and won during a regular seaon game for gosh sakes. Monday night football for them makes Mardi Gras look like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!! Get ready for a BUNCH of WHO DAT’s. Just what I need to begin the week. Anyway good luck to the Falcons, we are going to need it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brees throwing touchdowns all the way into Tuesday night.

cattle dawg

October 28th, 2009
9:18 am

Last time I got my laptop worked on the guy told me it was very, very sick. Did my cowboys expose the falcons last week, or did Romo an the defense play out of thier shoes?

Xs&Os

October 28th, 2009
9:21 am

Drew Brees is gonna have a field day against this defense…should be another pro-bowl day for Brees and the Saints offense. Falcons haven’t been able to pressure any opposing qb’s either….This one is gonna be ugly for the Falcons….and if they plan on getting to and doing well in the playoffs…please believe that they’ll have to go through New Orleans for a third time….I hope no-one thought the Falcons were superbowl bound this year because that ship has sunk my friends!!!!!

Dawg Days

October 28th, 2009
9:22 am

Thank you Jesus that Matt “Choke” Ryan hasn’t responded yet! Glad to see you got to be first, Jeff.

FalconUGAFan

October 28th, 2009
9:24 am

You know the term “exposed” really puzzles me. The Falcons are pretty young, clearly has issues (secondary, line, for example) and a new staff from GM down. Most of the Falcons issues are well documented with the exception of the running game. It is somewhat of a surprise. So to answer your question, I think that it was a little of both. Our weaknesses continue and your Cowboys stepped it up a bit. But time will tell.

Welcome back BIGEASY

October 28th, 2009
9:24 am

Spell check is ON FIRE today my man! Good job! Well, except for “truely” but you’re ahead of the curve for a Tuesday morning.

Mitchell T.

October 28th, 2009
9:36 am

I think the Falcons will have a good shot at beating the Aint’s next week. They usually step up after a loss. Mularky will bring his A+ plan.

I forsee Mike Peterson and John Abraham both punishing Brees on the same play during the first quarter and he will stumble the rest of the game…not that I wish any injuries to opposing players.

Go Falcons.

By the way, why isn’t big Vance Walker getting any playing time on the defensive line?

PMC

October 28th, 2009
9:39 am

The Falcons are without a lot of bullets in the gun. Injuries have emasculated the defense this year and there just aren’t enough playmakers already.

If they are going to win this game the offense has to play well, they can’t panic, the line has to protect and they can’t make mistakes.

Why does ESPN feel like they have to do endless favors for the city of New Orleans by playing these games in primetime?

Why does everyone else in the nation hate Atlanta? What did we do to anyone? We took thier tired, thier poor, their weak and thier criminals… this is the thanks we get?

PMC

October 28th, 2009
9:40 am

This would be a good time for Matt Ryan to play brillantly and make Thomas look good.

I saw Joe Montana and Jerry Rice...

October 28th, 2009
9:41 am

…on a “Best Damn Sports” replay the other night – they showed clips of Rice’s 5 TD day against the Birds and Charles Dimry – seems to me both Houston and Grimes are worse than Dimry (if that is possible) so Monday should be another 5 – 6 TD night for Brees and one of his receivers – it just depends on which CB Brees chooses to embarrass!

Ryno

October 28th, 2009
9:51 am

Mr. Schultz,

I don’t know about how much time they give Sports writers for vacation – but the Over/Under on the Falcons game is 54 points. And in the past 24 Monday Night football games, the over is 22-2.

I’m just saying – that 54 points could pay for a very nice vacation. Thank me later.

Rob

October 28th, 2009
9:52 am

PMC,

You also took their doctors, teachers, architects, and merchants of every kind along with their grocery money, their FEMA money, their insurance money, and their life’s savings while they tried to start their lives over. You did fine. Quit whining.

That playoff loss to the Falcons wasn’t the Saints first playoff loss as stated in the article. Or the second. They lost a playoff game to the Vikings in 1988 and to the Bears in 1991 before that flop against the Falcons.

Good Luck Monday Night … but not too much.

GEAUX Saints

cattle dawg

October 28th, 2009
9:54 am

Falcon UGA, I agree with you. I think it was some of both. Gotta go get packed. Headin down to jacksonville tomorrow. I hope the dawgs, cowboys an falcons all win. Man, whats the odds of that.

Bubba

October 28th, 2009
9:59 am

My thought on this is that the Saints and Falcons are natural rivals, have been since they came into the league. Granted, it’s not as heated or well known as, say, Cowboys-Redskins or Broncos-Chargers. My point is that rivalry is a factor in the equation, an intangible that can’t be quantified but is always a factor (except for Petrino’s Last Stand).. I think a 10 pt. line is generous.

PMC

October 28th, 2009
10:01 am

I wasn’t intending to offend you Rob… “give me your tired your weak your poor” is on the statue of liberty. Lots of fine people in New Orleans. It’s a nice city. You guys have a great team this year. It just seems like we always get set up as sacrificial lambs. That last monday night game was one of the worst games in the history of this franchise… and there have been a lot of bad ones. I pull for you guys out side of this series.

buck

October 28th, 2009
10:15 am

Who Dat think they gonna beat dem Saints……the Falcons????

NOT

Geaux Saints

vafalconfan

October 28th, 2009
10:18 am

Hard to believe the panties gave Delhomme all of that guaranteed money the year before they have to cut him. Hard to believe the bucs gave their head coaching position to Morris a guy who had never been a coordinator.(see Jim Zorn) Hard to believe the saints will be able to sustain the pace they are on. There’s a good chance they will beat our Falcons on MNF, but the season is far from over and some teams actually fear success and I think the saints are one of those teams..

fleur de lee

October 28th, 2009
10:23 am

what in the blue blazes does a loss by the 8-7 saints 20 years ago have to do with anything? easily excitable? saints fans expect the worst every year. saints fans expect something to go wrong at any minute. are you telling me that if the falcons had an average margin of victory of 2 touchdowns in going 6-0 there would not be celebration in the atl?

i am not in any way assuming that the Falcons game will be easy. I have great respect for what is going on with the Falcons and I think they are building a winning organization.

I have a little story of my own….

I once bought a saints t-shirt outside of the Georgia dome. There were alot of whodats in the crowd having a good ole time. Midway through the 3rd quarter, the saints went up 10 points and the falcons fans started heading for the gates. I told every one of them that we were perfectly capable of blowing the lead and they should stick around. A quarter later, there were basically no Atl fans left in the building and we had ourselves a little party.

Similarly, a few years back every one in Atlanta said that a trip to the superdome on Monday night was gonna be an easy win for the birds. (something about celebrating early comes to mind) I think we know what happened that night.

TMoney

October 28th, 2009
10:26 am

At the end of July, I actually made a list up of the entire NFC, and my prediction for each game. At this point, I had each team as follows:

Atlanta: 5-1
Carolina: 4-2
New Orleans: 5-1
Tampa Bay: 0-7

I really didn’t think Carolina would be this bad, but otherwise everything is playing out as I’ve expected. With that in mind, here are both my preseason predictions for this game:

Old foes meet again, the Falcons and the Saints will hookup in a Big-12 like shoot-out. Who wins? It’s the NFC South, which always favors the home team.

New Orleans hates Atlanta, and really hates hosting them on MNF. In a high scoring affair, the Saints get the ball last, score last, and win.

Now, I still think the Saints will win, but now I’m going to say it won’t be as close. I’ll take the Saints to cover easily.

Dee Will

October 28th, 2009
10:28 am

You “who dat” fans don’t scare me. We will be there to do what we always do. Party and take over the old super dome. Its a long season so just remember { the race isnt won by the swift, it is won by the team who can endure the long season.} By the end of the year the rest of the league will be saying * WHERE THEY *

Reid Adair

October 28th, 2009
10:35 am

First on your own blog comments. Very impressive, Jeff.

You described Saints fans perfectly. They are indeed “easily excitable.” That being said, I think Sean Payton was smart with his comments. He saw on Sunday that the undefeated season just about came to an end vs. the Dolphins, just a week after his team blew out the Giants.