Atlanta Falcons: 5-0 Doesn’t Matter vs. New Orleans Saints


The Atlanta Falcons are 5-0 entering Week 6. So what? They are about to play their biggest rival on Thursday Night Football. It’s Saints week already, folks.

Every year, Atlanta Falcons’ fans circle two dates on their calendar: both games versus their arch nemesis, the New Orleans Saints. Over the last 15 years, this NFC South showdown has become one of the most hostile and well-known rivalries in all of football.

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The Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints have met a staggering 92 times since 1967, with the Falcons holding a 49-43 lead in this biennial southeastern rivalry. Atlanta and New Orleans received their expansion football franchises within a year of each other (Atlanta 1966, New Orleans 1967).

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Both experienced perpetual futility in the old NFC West as the whipping boys of both the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams. Atlanta and New Orleans often battled for 3rd place supremacy in those trying times. Proximity and competitiveness yielded long-term animosity between the teams.

With 2002’s realignment came even more hostility in this rivalry. Both the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints have won the NFC South three times since 2002. Atlanta has earned 3 Wild Card berths to the Saints’ 2 since realignment. However, neither team enjoys a win more than one over their arch rival.

As we are three days away from Thursday Night Football on CBS/NFL Network, let’s remember one thing: this game is personal and season records do not matter. The Atlanta Falcons (5-0) are a 3 point favorite over the New Orleans Saints (1-4) in this primetime game. However, NFL fans know that this rivalry’s history is too close to give either team more than a 3-point spread.

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So what if the Atlanta Falcons swept the New Orleans Saints last year? This is a new season and anything can happen on any given Sunday, or in this case any given Thursday. Atlanta may have the easiest schedule entering 2015, but don’t expect the Falcons to cakewalk to 6-0 because New Orleans would love nothing more than to derail Atlanta’s undefeated season.

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Part of the reason I never pick any team in the NFC South to go 6-0 in divisional play is how intense many of the rivalry games are in this division. I’m normally reluctant to say the Atlanta Falcons will do better than 4-2 in the division any given year. We’ve grown to expect season splits with New Orleans and Carolina. Sometimes Tampa Bay comes out swinging, like they did at home in 2013 thanks to RB Bobby Rainey.

The Atlanta Falcons may have the better football team entering Week 6 than the New Orleans Saints, but expect a knock-down, drag-out fight between these two bitter rivals on Thursday Night Football. Atlanta has to assume the Saints are playoff bound if the Falcons want to move to 6-0. It’s Saints Week! Rise Up!

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