What to watch for in Falcons-Saints on 'TNF'

There was a time when the Falcons and Saints had one of the underrated rivalries in football. That buzz has worn off as the two teams have struggled in recent years, and their first matchup of 2015 finds the teams in very different places. Can the 1-4 Saints stun the 5-0 Falcons and pump some life back into their season?

Here's what we'll be watching for:

  1. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Thursday that wide receiver Julio Jones won't be on a pitch count as he continues to battle hamstring and toe injuries, according to CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson. The ailments have slowed the All-Pro after a historically great start, but Jones is feeling much better. The Saints have major secondary issues and Jones should draw a matchup with Brandon Browner, who has allowed more receiving yards than any cornerback in football this season.
  1. Is Roddy White being phased out of the Falcons' offense? Yes and no. He's played 305 offensive snaps this season (most among wide receivers), but is the fifth-most targeted player on the Falcons. He's on pace for his worst statistical season and hasn't caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games. If Jones is limited Thursday, is this the week White finally picks up the slack? Or is this the beginning of the end for one of the best pass-catchers in Falcons history?
  1. Drew Brees took five sacks in Sunday's loss to the Eagles, but he should have a less chaotic pocket here. The Falcons have made improvements across the board, but they still can't get to the quarterback. Atlanta has just six sacks through five games, ranking them 28th in football. The unit's year-over-year improvement mostly can be attributed to a league-best run defense.
  1. Respect Willie Snead or face the consequences. The undrafted free agent had several big catches against the Eagles and finished with six receptions for 141 yards. Brandin Cooks was supposed to be the breakout receiver for the Saints, but it's Snead who has delivered the best rapport with Brees.
  1. The C.J. Spiller breakout watch is back on indefinite hiatus. A week after his 80-yard touchdown reception beat the Cowboys in overtime, Spiller once again disappeared from the Saints' offense, finishing with just two yards on five touches. Spiller should have been an ideal fit in Sean Payton's offense -- how could he be such a non-factor? We'll see if the Saints try to get the versatile back more involved against the Falcons.
  1. The Falcons might be one of just four 5-0 teams in the NFL, but don't confuse Dan Quinn's squad with a dominant juggernaut. In fact, the Falcons have trailed in the fourth quarter of four of their five games. Our point? Don't look at the records of the two rivals and expect a one-sided affair.
This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content