With the NFL season still in the early stages, it’s difficult to say that a Week 3 matchup is a big moment for any team at this point in the season. With that being said, the division clash between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons is one that could have a lasting impact. In a talented division, both teams sit at 1-1 and are looking to gain momentum, as they soar into the thick of the NFL season. The Saints lost their season opener to another division foe in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so falling two games behind in the division this early in the season will create a hole that will be difficult to climb out of in the division race.
Running Game is Key
Alvin Kamara is a freak of nature. Through two games, Kamara has touched the ball 36 times and has racked up 240 yards. He has also found the end zone on three different occasions. He’s averaging 6.66 yards per touch and has especially hurt teams catching the ball out of the backfield (15 catches, 165 yards, 1 TD). With the Falcons All-Pro linebacker Deion Jones on IR and safety Keanu Neal out for the season, the Falcons are down two studs on the defensive side of the ball. Keeping Kamara in check will be pivotal if the Falcons want to come out with the W.
Tevin Coleman needs to get the ball in his hands. With Devonta Freeman out for a few weeks, the Falcons running game will depend on Coleman. In a week one loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Falcons ran the ball 18 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. In a week 2 victory over the Carolina Panthers, the offense racked up 170 yards rushing on 32 carries. They also had two rushing touchdowns. Coleman was efficient, gaining 107 yards on 16 carries, which helped this pass-heavy offense create some balance. When Matt Ryan has time in the pocket and can utilize the play action passing game, finding lethal targets like Julio Jones on the edge makes everybody’s life a little easier.
Falcon Offense vs. Saints Defense
Julio Jones and Marshon Lattimore will square off on Sunday. Last year in two matchups against the Saints, Jones went to work, tallying 247 yards on 12 catches. He was targeted 23 times by Ryan in the two games. Jones already has a 10-catch performance in 2018 and will be heavily targeted again on Sunday. Lattimore will be in the spotlight in passing situations against Jones, and this matchup could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the contest.
The pass rush for the Saints has been almost non-existent. They’ve only sacked the quarterback on three occasions through the first two games this season. The Falcons offense only ranks 20th in the league in scoring, averaging just over 21 points a game. For the Saints to leave Atlanta victorious, their pass rush needs to hit home on Ryan. Atlanta has only given up four sacks to start the season, proving they have the ability to keep Ryan clean. The Falcons offensive line versus the Saints pass rush will be a crucial matchup in this game as well.
Saints: +3 (-120)
Falcons: -3 (+100)
Falcons win on a late field goal, 30-28
As previously stated, this game is as big of an early season matchup as you can find. The Saints do not want to fall to 0-2 in the division this early in the campaign. The Falcons are looking to build off of their red-zone success last week against Carolina. Both teams are hungry to build momentum for their squads moving forward. Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be rocking on Sunday.