The Atlanta Falcons (7-5) face the hated rivals New Orleans Saints Thursday night in Atlanta. It isn’t hyperbole to say that it will be season defining.
My colleague here, Kit Anderson, wrote earlier that this game is a “must win”. I think he is correct, and it isn’t disputable. Any time our beloved Atlanta Falcons play the Saints it is a big deal. This year is magnified and amplified. With Atlanta struggling unexpectedly, and New Orleans near the top of the NFC, this game will be season defining.
I’ve harped on this repeatedly this season, and will continue to as long as there is reason. Reality is teams don’t make the playoffs in the NFL, if they can’t win at home. 3 of Atlanta’s 5 losses this year were at home. Two of those teams don’t have winning records. Had the Falcons won against Buffalo and Miami, and they should have, playoff discussions in Atlanta would be centered on position and seeding, not if they can even make it.
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In addition, it is extremely rare to find examples of Atlanta making the playoffs when they haven’t split with New Orleans on the year or swept them outright. Generally speaking, the Falcons have a difficult time winning in New Orleans, so the home game becomes a must.
The questionable refereeing in those New Orleans road games, pre and post “bounty-gate”, will be left for another article.
Coming off of a loss to league leading Minnesota at home on Sunday doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, the Vikings are very good football team.
But if you look at the stat sheet and don’t see a single touchdown for a home team that broke records on that side of the ball last year, with mostly the same players, you roll your eyes with a knowing disbelief and recognition that something is broken.
And let’s just get this out there. The comment by Coach Dan Quinn admonishing ATL fans to be louder is his recognition that those fans are bewildered. This will be covered in another article, and it’s perfectly fine for Coach Quinn to ask for fan help, but it doesn’t make sense to do that when Julio Jones, the baddest man in the NFL, gets 5 or 6 targets a game.
The New Orleans game is always a big one for Atlanta. The home game against New Orleans is especially noteworthy due to Atlanta’s difficulty winning on the road there.
This year, though, this game is season defining. A loss Thursday and the playoffs are almost assuredly out of reach. With the short week, and with our beloved ATL club careening towards a playoff miss, the Falcons have to do something that, heretofore, they’ve struggled with: Win at home against a very good team.
Julio Jones might be able to help with that. Just a thought.