New Orleans Saints: The Big Picture

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISSaints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Falcons receiver Julio Jones prepare to collide during the Saints' win over Atlanta last season in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. New Orleans hosts the undefeated Falcons at noon Sunday. Show caption
Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISSaints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Falcons receiver Julio Jones prepare to collide during the Saints' win over Atlanta last season in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. New Orleans hosts the undefeated Falcons at noon Sunday.

During their last few playoff appearances, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But guess what? So far this season, they do. They’re 8-0.

These days, the New Orleans Saints hardly look like a Super Bowl contender. But guess what? After their horrid start, they’ve won three of their last four.

At noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, they’d love nothing more than to hand the Falcons their first loss.

Of course, Roddy White doesn’t think it’ll happen.

In case you missed it, the Falcons’ veteran receiver told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that he believes his team can go 16-0.

“I’m hoping so,” White said. “I think we have the pedigree to do it.”

Win or lose, New Orleans’ defense will probably have its hands full with Atlanta. After all, the Saints have a tough time stopping anyone.

In a crucial 28-13 win over the Eagles, they gave up 400-plus yards for the eighth consecutive game, and they didn’t exactly shut down Philadelphia’s ground attack (tailback LeSean McCoy averaged 6.3 yards per carry).

But as in previous wins against San Diego and Tampa Bay, the defense made a handful of game-changing plays, including that crucial 99-yard interception return by Patrick Robinson, not to mention those seven sacks of Michael Vick.

So maybe the Saints are primed for a breakout game. Maybe they’re primed for a big win over a big rival. Surely, Saints fans would love nothing more.

WHERE THEY STAND

The Saints are 3-5 after last week’s 28-13 win over the Eagles. They are third in the NFC South, one game behind second-place Tampa Bay and five games behind first-place Atlanta.

COMING UP

The Saints host the Falcons at noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. After that, they play at Oakland on Nov. 18 and host San Francisco on Nov. 25.

JOB WELL DONE
RB Mark Ingram

What he’s done: Where did this guy come from? Until Monday, Ingram — often the Saints’ No. 3 tailback this season — had tiptoed through much of the first seven games. Against the Eagles, he looked like a different runner, showing off moves, power and speed. Ingram had 67 yards from scrimmage Monday.

What’s next: Atlanta does not have a great run defense (the Falcons have allowed 4.9 yards per carry). Still, don’t expect a breakout game from Ingram, who will almost certainly share playing time with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory — who also sparkled against Philadelphia, with a team-high 48 yards on 10 carries.

ON THE SPOT
LB Curtis Lofton

What he’s done: Lofton is not on the spot because he has played poorly. In fact, after eight games, he has been one of the few solid, dependable players on the Saints’ beleaguered defense, leading the team with 76 tackles.

What’s next: This is why Curtis Lofton is on the spot. Lofton, of course, spent his first four NFL seasons with the Falcons, becoming one of the most consistent middle linebackers in the game. Now that he’s on the other side of the Saints-Falcons rivalry, Lofton will have plenty of eyes on him Monday when the teams meet.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

2

The Saints rushed for 140 yards Monday against the Eagles, marking only the second time they’ve broken the 100-yard barrier this season.

5,098

Drew Brees is on pace to throw for 5,098 yards this season — only slightly below his total last year, when he broke the NFL single-season record with 5,476 yards.

6,793

The 1981 Baltimore Colts hold the record for most yards allowed in a single season.

7,539

The Saints defense is on pace to allow 7,539 yards from scrimmage this season. That would be a new NFL record.

WORTH REPEATING

“I think there’s a recipe to be 8-0, and they’ve got that recipe going right now. They’re extremely confident. They’ve won some tight football games.”

Joe Vitt, on the Falcons

NFC SOUTH: JUDGMENT CALLS

Falcons: UP

What they ’ve done : Are they the best team in the NFL? Maybe, maybe not. Do they have the best record? That, of course, is not up for debate.

Buccaneers: UP

What they ’ve done : They’ve won three of their last four. They’re usually competitive. And that rookie tailback, Doug Martin, looks pretty good.

Panthers: UP

What they’ve done : Yes, they’ve looked better lately. But this week, John Fox and Peyton Manning are coming to Charlotte. Uh-oh.