NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-3) at ATLANTA FALCONS (5-3)
Sunday, 1:00 P.M. ET, FOX, Direct TV (712), Sirius (NO 92, Atl 134)
The Falcons behaved like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning when they over-focused on rookie wide receiver Julio Jones to start the season while forgetting the other goodies in the toy chest. Jones’ October injury forced Atlanta to rediscover who they are. It was a pleasant surprise that came at the right time. Atlanta is ready to take on its chief division rival.
What To Watch
The TGS writers judged Atlanta’s trade of picks to Cleveland for the right to Draft Julio Jones to be the worst of the new century, notwithstanding Jones 2 touchdowns on 3 receptions and 131 yards against the Colts. Jones also gained 33 yards on two rushing attempts. Like I said, it was against the Colts, so chop that performance by one-third when projecting Jones’ performance for your fantasy team this weekend. The real Falcons must face the real Saints. Coach Mike Smith must see the advantages of keeping Drew Brees off the field by handing off the ball to RB Michael Turner, a lot.
Turner the Burner has been the Falcons workhorse rushing 27 times in both the Carolina and the Detroit games for 139 and 122 yards respectively. Ball control will work better for Atlanta than to be drawn into a passing duel with Brees & company.
Two former San Diego Chargers rushers will take the field in this game. Norv Turner will cringe as he wonders what he could have done if his front office kept either Turner or Darren Sproles who is averaging 7.1 yards per attempt for New Orleans. Sproles has more yards in barely half the carries of first-round 2011 NFL Draft pick Mark Ingram, Jr. The Saints are, shall we say, target-rich when it comes to offense thanks to how well Brees, another Chargers cast-off, places the ball. Jimmy Graham may be the best receiving tight end on any team. Saints CB Patrick Robinson and LB Jonathan Vilma did not practice, but the team is mum on their game day status. The visiting Saints are 1-point favorites.
Who Will Win
New Orleans’ mystifying loss to St. Louis, playing without Sam Bradford, plants a seed of doubt as they face Atlanta who enters the game with a head of steam. The NFL’s rolls a stellar weekend of games for division lead that are too close to call. This is one of them. The home team Falcons get the edge by the thinnest of margins.