Falcons get another shot at Saints, looking to affirm direction

Are Matt Ryan and the Falcons headed forward? We'll find out Monday night in New Orleans. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Are Matt Ryan and the Falcons headed forward? We'll find out Monday night in New Orleans. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

NEW ORLEANS — There have been enough times over the 40-plus seasons of  Falcons-Saints games when we knew it really told us nothing about the future, other than maybe who would be happier once their hangover wore off.

One team stunk. Both teams stunk. Neither fan base was deluded into believing their team was that great, just better than the other one. It was the closest thing the NFL got to a college rivalry.

But the meeting in New Orleans Monday night will be different. This game likely will tell us something about the future for the Falcons. They’re almost certainly headed to the playoffs, and it’s possible their first-round game will be in the Superdome.

We know about the Saints: They’ve won six straight. Drew Brees, coach Mike Smith said, “is operating at a level we probably haven’t seen,” having thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last five games. Because of Brees, New Orleans is a Super Bowl threat.

We don’t really about the Falcons: They’ve played their best six quarters of the season consecutively. But that has come against Carolina (6-9) and Jacksonville (4-11), so they’re not quite feeling a group hug yet.

Their 9-5 record breaks down this way:  7-1 against teams currently with losing records, 2-4 against teams with winning or .500 records (including Chicago, which was 7-7 going into its game at Green Bay game Sunday night.).

The Falcons were viewed as a title contender at this time a year ago, and we know where that got them. They’re viewed as something less than that now. They’ll tell you they’re fine with that because they have the wild card/Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers as a reference point. But this is when the Packers stepped on the gas a year ago (winning their last two before the playoffs, including 45-17 over the Giants in game 15).

This is when the Falcons can begin to define direction and alter perceptions.

“It’s an important game because we’re going down the stretch and this is a big test for us,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “This could be a really big statement game for us, especially if we have to go back down there to play these guys again in two weeks.”

The Saints haven’t clinched the NFC South yet. But for the Falcons to win the division and clinch a home playoff game, they would have to win in the Superdome and again next week over Tampa Bay, then hope New Orleans loses its finale against Carolina. In that scenario, the Falcons would be the NFC’s No. 3 seed and host a first-round game against Detroit. As a wild card, the Falcons would travel to either the NFC East winner (Dallas or New York) if they’re the fifth seed, or New Orleans or San Francisco if they’re the the sixth seed (which ever opponent had the lesser record).

The scenarios would be different if the Falcons hadn’t, in their view, given away a game to New Orleans six weeks ago. The Saints won in overtime 26-23. You might recall something about a fourth-and-1 decision by coach Mike Smith in overtime that backfired. But Atlanta also had three red zone possessions that resulted in only field goals. Matt Bryant missed a field goal. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception that led to three Saints’ points.

If any of those things fall the Falcons’ way, the teams probably are tied at 10-4 today instead of separated by two games. That game still stings.

“Guys have had this game circled,” Smith said.

“This is the one that we want,” White said.

“When we lost, we knew this game would be here later on in the season,” center Todd McClure said. “We want to go back and get a little revenge.”

This is their chance. The Falcons’ playoff lives aren’t on the line. But how they play against one of the league’s better teams should tell us something  more about where they’re going.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

424 comments Add your comment

Trevinb

December 25th, 2011
1:11 pm

Merry Christmas, Jeff!

Gwinnett Fred

December 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

They better win or at least play well against the Saints – starting to look like a loss to the Saints might just make New Orleans our first round opponent!

Merry Christmas to all!

MarkG

December 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

All I want for Christmas is for the Falcons to beat the Saints! :)

5150 UOAD

December 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

HiRam Taint. you are the one running your mouth about 17 points. You took the $100 bet. I will not lose. I am here all the time you have never seen me run and hide.
Cute with the sexual reference but you know that is acting like you are a 13 yr. old.
You Talk Big but you know you don’t have to GUTS to back up your bet.why would you make a bet if you don’t have the guts to pay when you lose? keep your money and move back to the NoLa Toilet.

falcon

December 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

Sure will be nice to hand the Saints a loss in their house.

Ueeediot

December 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

5150 uoad= a mistake from the hoochie

keith

December 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

I will be well hydrated for this game

History Channel

December 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

“Never have I heard such a bunch of pathetic human beings, and I use the term very loosely. If this is the mentally of falcon fans then I am sorry for the state of Georgia.

A quote from a horrified Falcon fan after reading 5150’s dissertations and his cousins also….lmfao

5150 UOAD

December 25th, 2011
2:03 pm

Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, and Biscuits just getting ready for the oven. Tenderloin out of the smoker and warming. Shrimp Cocktails are made. Waiting on Sisters and their families with the rest of the meal pieces. It is about to get loud with all the kids in the house. I wish football would start at 4.

5150 UOAD

December 25th, 2011
2:05 pm

The football game can’t get here soon enough. Why couldn’t we have a Bowl game or something around 2?

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
2:26 pm

The only difference between 2011 & 2008 – 2010 is that CHOKE will have no draft to make him look even more 2nd string :)

If CHOKE doesn’t get a playoff win this season, will Blank be so patient to pull the trigger? I think not.

After this Monday night beating by the Saints & Brees Legend it will be a LOT of pressure vs Tampa just to make the playoffs :)

Meanwhile, you can count on Flacco doing his annual playoff win celebration :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
2:30 pm

So if the Falcants are lucky enough to get the 6th seed, they will probably be traveling back to New Orleans or up to San Francisco and start their 2013 draft watch :)

Then they will enter the 2012 season with a 27 year old 5 year veteran. Can’t use the too young excuse anymore.

I don’t think Blank will be silent on his expectations.

5 years of no playoff wins. Hell Mora got fired after 3 seasons, and that included a championship game :)

5150 UOAD

December 25th, 2011
2:31 pm

The Sisters and Kids just arrived. The Noise level has just risen 10 fold. Time to EAT and open more presents.
Hope everybody had a nice Christmas with the ones you love. be Blessed and safe.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
2:34 pm

“Their 9-5 record breaks down this way: 7-1 against teams currently with losing records, 2-4 against teams with winning or .500 records ”

That stat says it all :)

Like I have been saying: CHOKE beats up the bottom dweller & CHOKEs versus legit teams.

It’s pretty simple, this CLOWN is not INTELLIGENT enough to read a quality defense and therefore he will NEVER win a playoff game.

Stats don’t lie :)

ijonathan

December 25th, 2011
2:58 pm

CHOKE, geez, now why are you going to your moldy deck of cards and pulling out the “Flacco” card again. Yes, I know, he’s “won” a few playoff games (although those on here will dispute tying a win solely to a quarterback)…but please, go check his stats, both this year and his career in the playoffs. Career playoff rating, 61.6, and 5 of his 7 career playoff games with raings of 62 or less…and c’mon, a rating of 10 in one game and 18.2 in another. Ryan Leaf laughs at those numbers. You make some valid points and are good for a few laughs, but not much is funnier than you trying to use Flacco to denigrate Ryan. By the way, Ryan’s passer rating in his two playoff games, 71.2.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
3:15 pm

0-2 in playoffs.

Only stat that matters, well except for this one:

“Their 9-5 record breaks down this way: 7-1 against teams currently with losing records, 2-4 against teams with winning or .500 records ”

I love when the AJC reports the facts :)

jay

December 25th, 2011
3:22 pm

If you’ve followed the falcons as long as I have, you’d realize that these are the ‘”salad” days of this
franchise.

reckingball

December 25th, 2011
3:22 pm

JS, you forgot to mention a potential game winning pass, that hit the Falcons #1 WR in his hands, in the endzone with about 30 seconds left in regulation time.

CGD..

December 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

same ole ish…..yawn..cant beat the winners……

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
3:44 pm

CGD..

December 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

same ole ish…..yawn..cant beat the winners……
_____________________________________________________________

Yet they have the qb of the future………….HA HA HA

reckingball

December 25th, 2011
3:44 pm

It will be hard for the Falcons to beat the saints, and the 7 NFL zebras.
But the Falcons can get a win.
They will probably already be in the playoffs after the Sunday night game.

reckingball

December 25th, 2011
4:02 pm

At least when the saints get eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs, this year, it will be by a team with a “winning” record.

reckingball

December 25th, 2011
4:04 pm

A couple of years or less, and the saints fans will be brown bagging it again.

Dr. Warren

December 25th, 2011
4:07 pm

Anyone remember Big Ben Right? How about Big Ben Left? Anything can happen when the Big Red Birds land in the Superdome. And p.s.: those ‘78 Falcons ended up 9-7 and beat the Eagles in the Christmas Eve Wild Card game. Don’t count out this much more talented Falcons team.

Nativebird

December 25th, 2011
4:13 pm

Anyone that thinks my Falcons are hosting a playoff game is smoking stuff sold in California medical kiosks. [oh yea, i forgot...this is ineed the Schultz blog isnt it].

tjhook

December 25th, 2011
4:41 pm

How does everyone feel about the offensive line when comparing them to the early lineup?!

MarkG

December 25th, 2011
4:45 pm

It’s good to see that Brent Grimes will be back in the lineup. I think Hayden is also coming back. Great news for the secondary!!! :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
4:46 pm

The Falcons had ZERO 1st rounders on the offensive line from 2001-2007 yet they won 2 playoff games.

Next excuse :)

SeenThisB4

December 25th, 2011
4:50 pm

G E A U X S A I N T S ! ! !

Billy

December 25th, 2011
4:59 pm

For God’s sake, CHOKE, it’s Christmas. Can’t you let your incessant, one-note diatribe against Matt Ryan go just for one day? Did he steal your lunch money or dunk your head in the toilet at school or something? I guess you have your reasons, but your hatred towards this man is so vehement and so mean-spirited that it borders on pathological. You truly have my sympathies, sir. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
5:02 pm

“Their 9-5 record breaks down this way: 7-1 against teams currently with losing records, 2-4 against teams with winning or .500 records ”

Gritz

December 25th, 2011
5:05 pm

Matt “Choke” Ryan:

Living proof that it’s never a good thing when your parents met at a family reunion.

Joe C.SAINT,S Fan

December 25th, 2011
5:06 pm

Come on folks do you really think the stinky birds can come in the dome and bet the Saints in there house. they have a QB thats overrated and there defense can,t get out of there own way .

Gritz

December 25th, 2011
5:10 pm

Joe C.SAINT,S Fan-Your post actually represents the average Taint fan very well. It has all of the verbage and grammatical splendor we have come to expect from you guys.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
5:49 pm

Why do Falcants fans choose to show their frustrations by way of anger and insults?

Can’t we all just get along :)

Terrible Truth

December 25th, 2011
5:51 pm

I’ve been around since the birth of this rivalry, some great games have been played by some mighty mediocre teams. Glad to see both teams doing well, Lord knows the fans on both sides have earned it!

Saint Fans Stop Worring About A Football

December 25th, 2011
6:04 pm

Put your energies back into the city. Tear it down and rebuild it. Its looks like a city from a 3rd world country…its a dump

After January football season will be over, but New Orleans will still be New Orleans. There will be no other place to travel to watch a football…I imagine many of you do that to get away from the filth.

Strike that- Most have relocated to other parts of the country.

Saint Fans Stop Worring About A Football Game

December 25th, 2011
6:06 pm

Put your energies back into the city. Tear it down and rebuild it. It looks like a city from a 3rd world country…its a dump

After January football season will be over, but New Orleans will still be New Orleans. There will be no other place to travel to watch a footbal gamel…I imagine many of you do that to get away from the filth.

Strike that- Most have already relocated to other parts of the country.

Bruce Mac

December 25th, 2011
6:07 pm

Joke, you are obviously not a Falcon fan, or if you are you are a Johnny come lately. The Falcons have never been relavent except for that every now and again exception until now. The Matt Ryan, Coach Smith and GM Demitroff group have us relavent every year for the first time in history. Are we world class, no. But to be relavent every year is a first and you only show your ignorance with your posts.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
6:26 pm

Bruce Mac

December 25th, 2011
6:07 pm

Joke, you are obviously not a Falcon fan, or if you are you are a Johnny come lately. The Falcons have never been relavent except for that every now and again exception until now. The Matt Ryan, Coach Smith and GM Demitroff group have us relavent

________________________________________________________

I think you are in denial hoss :)

Does that relevent = ZERO Playoff wins or………………..

Relevent = Championship game in 1st season?

I know most of you Falcants fans have a struggle with reality, but the rest of the world
would take a championship game over an 0-2 playoff record :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
6:28 pm

CHOKE is a BUST and will never be relevent, no matter how much he is HYPED :)

Coach Smith & CHOKE came into the league the same year as John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco.

Flacco will be working on playoff wins 5-7 while CHOKE is still dreaming of number 1

HA HA HA :)

Steve

December 25th, 2011
6:31 pm

Talk is cheap….Show us you’re ready to take the next step…….

gabugman

December 25th, 2011
6:32 pm

Choke, your schtick is getting old.

Can you come up with something new and interesting?

Or could you just go away altogether?

Andy

December 25th, 2011
6:39 pm

Hope you got to spend some time with your family today Jeff. Merry Christmas.

Falcon fan since 66

December 25th, 2011
6:46 pm

Choke….Man you’re stichk gets sooooooo old. I’m guessing Matt Ryan turned you down after you made a pass at him in high school. No, that couldn’t be right. You’re obviously only about 11 years old and have no life other than slamming Matt. I wish you were at least funny so I could semi-enjoy your posts. So sad to see how you chose to spend your after school hours.

SeenThisB4

December 25th, 2011
6:59 pm

Do you mind if I express my love for hiramsaint?

SeenThisB4

December 25th, 2011
7:00 pm

I just wanted to remind everyone that I am homosexual.

whodat70816

December 25th, 2011
7:09 pm

Saints will win….and it will be by 10+. Our Boys are just as focus and hungry to win this game as the Falcons are…

But the Saints are just better!

WHO DAT!

REAL FALCONS FAN

December 25th, 2011
7:24 pm

rise up ! TO MY ATLANTA FALCONS, JUST FOCUS DO YOUR JOB’S AND SHOW NEW ORLEANS AND THE WHOLE NFL WHAT FEAR IS .FACING A DANGEROUS TEAM , MY ATLANTA FALCON’S IN THE SUPER DOME OR IN THE PLAYOFF’S.RISE UP MIGHTY FALCON’S ,MAKE ALL FALCON FANS PROUD GO GET EM. GOOD LUCK GUYS AND MAY GOD BLESS.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 25th, 2011
7:28 pm

Sorry Falcants WHINEY fans, it’s not my fault you got the short end of the stick in 2008…..

HA HA HA

You have no draft in 2012 because you traded the house to make CHOKE look more than the BUST

that he is, and it’s still not working……HA HA HA

It’s been 8 seasons since you CLOWNS last won a playoff game and as long as CHOKE

the JOKE is behind center you never will win another playoff game :)