A huge NFC South showdown is set with enormous playoff implications for both teams when the Atlanta Falcons visit the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday. Whoever wins the division will qualify for the playoffs, and get to host a Wild Card game once there. Whoever fails to win the division will be eliminated from playoff contention, because none of the NFC South teams have records that can compete with the other NFC playoff hopefuls. This contest could potentially decide the division champion, either way.
Members of both teams know how much is at stake. Both teams have done a fair share of trash talking in anticipation of their big NFC South showdown. Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis has no doubts in his mind which team will be eliminated, having claimed that the Saints were going to provide the Falcons their funeral this Sunday. Not to be outdone, Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon referred to the Saints as the “Aints,” saying that they are sorry to have the Falcons name in their mouths. He also claimed that the Falcons would be bringing their brooms with them to New Orleans.
The Falcons knocked off the Saints in the earlier meeting on opening day in Atlanta this season off a last-minute field goal, in a game where the Falcons produced record numbers for the franchise on offense. Yet, they still trail New Orleans by a game in the divisional race. They also trail the Carolina Panthers by a half game, which makes this huge NFC South showdown set for Sunday between the Falcons and Saints that much bigger. If the Falcons manage to pull off the road victory in New Orleans, they will be ahead of the Saints by virtue of the tie-breaker, having completed a season sweep of their divisional foes. They need this victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, because if they lose to the Saints this Sunday, they are out of the playoff race altogether. The task of winning at New Orleans and clinching the NFC South will not be made easier, as wide receiver Julio Jones has now been ruled out for Sunday’s game, which is a big loss for the Falcons. Still, Saints head coach Sean Peyton has said that even without Jones, the depth for the Falcons on receiving is solid, and the Saints defense will have their hands full.
Much like the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints have proven to be one of the most consistently inconsistent teams this season. A team loaded with big name talent, particularly on offense, and with a number of successful seasons in recent memory. Many expected the Saints to dominate the NFC South this season, but it just has not happened that way. New Orleans has struggled numerous times and, surprisingly, find themselves uncharacteristically on a four-game losing skid at home, where they are usually tough to beat. So far this season, they only have a 3-4 record at home. They will try to win their first home game in nearly two months, with the last home victory for them being against the Green Bay Packers all the way back in late October.
Atlanta, however, cannot boast a great road record at 2-5. In recent season, the Falcons have struggled on the road, and have never proven themselves capable of winning the biggest games on the road. That will need to change this for the big NFC South showdown that is set for weekend with the Saints, or the Falcons will be watching the playoffs from home. One positive for them is that the only two road wins that they have this season were against divisional opponents. If they can defeat the Saints on Sunday, they will control their own destiny, as the Carolina Panthers are scheduled to play them in Atlanta in the regular season finale. The Saints, however, could potentially clinch the division with a win and a Panthers loss to the Cleveland Browns this weekend. For each team in the NFC South, it is time to forget earlier failures this season, and focus on seizing this moment to take the division title.
Commentary By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Pete Sheffield – Flickr License