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Curtis Lofton has been fined $15,000 for his hit on Marques Colston in Week 16.
In Michael's first column for SB Nation Atlanta, he starts with an analogy between Georgia's and the Falcons' seasons and ends with a plea for vengeance.
How Drew Brees' passing record episode shows it's still OK to hate the New Orleans Saints. Falcons fans have been doing it for decades now, after all.
If the game didn't look that ugly in person, then the sight of that final box score sure made up for it. All night long, the Falcons defense simply did not have any sort of answer for the Saints for most of the night, and when the Falcons often were beating themselves with penalties.
At one point the Falcons, only down 31-16 with the ball in their hands at the start of the fourth, looked at least poised to narrow the point deficit. But on first down Julio Jones was stripped of the football, and corner Malcolm Jenkins took it back 31 yards for the score, effectively closing the door on Atlanta.
While Brees certainly got his yards and touchdowns (and two interceptions) throughout the course of the game, it was perhaps a surprisingly effective Saints running game that became the difference. On offense, some of the same inconsistencies at the beginning of the season (penalties, dropped passes, lapses in pass protection) also reared their ugly heads again.
And Michael Turner? He was nowhere to be found, managing only 39 yards on 11 carries all game. Matt Ryan was impressive, completing 34-of-52 for 373 yards and a touchdown, but too many other issues (read: defense) and drives stalling in the red zone (read: no running game) kept the point total down.
Any way you look at it, the Saints were the better team tonight, and have now wrapped up the NFC South crown and are guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Falcons will now need a win and a Lions loss next week to grab the more favorable No. 5 seed in the postseason as they drop to 9-6 on the year.
Oh yeah, Drew Brees broke some sort of record tonight. Maybe you heard that mentioned once or twice.
While working on Robert Meachem, Dunta came up with a rare (and very impressive) tip-drill interception, the second one of the night for Brees. Yet on the next possession the Falcons offense went three-and-out, with Ryan's pass being tipped incomplete on third down.
Both offensive tackles have also been inconsistent all night, part of the reason they only have scored 16 points through three quarters. While Matt Bryant has managed to hit three field goals on the night, the touchdowns simply haven't come.
As for the Saints, they put up 10 points in the third quarter to keep a very comfortable lead in this one. About midway through, Brees was able to step up and hit Robert Meachem on an impressive 24-yard strike for a touchdown, and has been able to elude would-be Falcons tacklers in the pocket more than once tonight.
Barring another big-time fourth quarter comeback by Matty Ice, the Saints will walk away tonight with an NFC South title in hand. Having watched some pretty mediocre play by the Falcons tonight, I'd say they deserve it.
As this game has progressed, you could say the Atlanta defense has remained inconsistent all game long. You could also say that Drew Brees has been doing almost whatever he wants, and that would be equally as true.
This game would perhaps be out of hand for the Falcons were not for one miraculous, spectacular play. With a first down inside the Atlanta red zone, Brees fired at Jimmy Graham in the end zone, but the ball was juggled, tipped up in the air by an alert William Moore, and ultimately intercepted in the end zone by Dominique Franks for a touchback.
That put the ball back in Matt Ryan's hands, but the drive would ultimately produce no points. Though Ryan hit Harry Douglas on a beautiful third-down completion, it was called back because of a holding penalty against Jacquizz Rodgers.
Then the Saints would do exactly what Mike Smith and Falcons fans alike had feared: Brees marched his offense all the way down the field yet again and hit tight end Jimmy Graham on a nine-yard touchdown pass, extending their lead to 21-10.
That is the current state of affairs at halftime. Unless the Falcons defense can find some sort of halftime answer a la week 14 against the Panthers, the Saints have this game well in hand.
With an NFC South title and pride on the line, the Falcons have traveled into Saints territory and gotten off to a good start in this big-time Monday Night matchup, one that we could see again in the playoffs.
On the first drive of the game, Matt Ryan and the offense were their usual efficient, methodical selves. The Falcons displayed a good mix of run and pass, but it was a quick-reaction shovel pass to Jason Snelling- good for a 16 yard gain- that would get the Falcons going in Saints territory.
On defense, the Falcons looked pretty shell-shocked on their first out on the field, and were surprisingly ineffective against the Saints ground game. Though Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a big-time 38-yard passing play, it was Pierre Thomas who would punch it in for the touchdown, giving New Orleans a 7-3 edge. All in all, the Saints rushed for 50 yards on the opening drive.
But Ryan and the offense would bounce right back. The passing game would really pick it up, and Ryan would find rookie Julio Jones twice for 46 yards on the drive, including a 21-yard TD strike that now has Atlanta back in front 10-7. Brees and the Saints would respond right back with a touchdown of their own, finding Marques Colston in the end zone after driving down the field in hasty fashion.
If the Falcons can manage to win tonight, they'll still have a shot at the NFC South crown or at worst the No. 5 seed in the playoffs.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For the Saints, head over to Canal Street Chronicles.
When you have the opportunity to be a part of a historical performance, injuries don't seem to hurt as much, and the desire to be a part of the celebration becomes paramount. For New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore, who had been bothered recently by a tight hamstring, it looks like he will be available for Drew Brees' attempt at history, as the quarterback is 305 yards away from breaking Dan Marino's passing yards record of 5,084 yards in a season. You might've heard about this a few dozen times by now today.
The Atlanta Falcons will get back cornerback Brent Grimes, who'll look to prevent a Saints victory, along with Brees' coronation.
Here are the Saints players that will be inactive for tonight's game versus the Falcons.
RB Mark Ingram
LB Jonathan Casillas
DB Leigh Torrence
OT Will Robinson
TE Mike Higgins
WR Adrian Arrington
DE Turk McBride
As the Falcons begin to prepare to prevent Drew Brees from breaking Dan Marino's passing yards record on them for Monday Night Football, a vital member of Atlanta's secondary is ready to enter the fray.
CB Brent Grimes will start for the Falcons tonight. #atlno11 - @FalconsJAdams via Twitter
Drew Brees needs just 305 passing yards to break Dan Marino's record-setting 1984 mark of 5,084. Atlanta has the 17th-ranked pass defense in the NFL, giving up 231 yards/game. The question will be, can Grimes presence slow down the Saints passing attack, at all?
Here are the Falcons that will be inactive for tonight's game versus the Saints.
WR Kerry Meier
Brees, a rocket-armed QB with uncanny accuracy and a great feel for the pocket, is on pace to shatter Dan Marino's passing yards record that has stood since 1984. Through 15 games, Brees has completed 72.2% of his passes for 4,780 yards, 39 TD's and 11 INT's.
"I'm not going to be looking over there in awe; looking at [Brees], Atlanta LB Sean Weatherspoon said. "I'm just going out there with the game plan that we have to try to make some plays."
Atlanta's has the NFL's 4rth rated rush defense, but they've given up 230.6 yards a game through the air this season, 17th worst in the league.
In their 26-23 OT loss to the Saints, they allowed Brees to complete 30-43 passes for 322 yards and 2 TD's. If he repeats that performance, he'll easily break Marino's mark of 5,084 yards, a number once thought untouchable.
It took 40 years for the Falcons and Saints rivalry to become a national sensation, but Atlanta has yet to find a way to steal the newfound spotlight.
The Falcons' playoff path is just about set, but a Monday Night Football battle with the Saints could make for a late momentum boost.
The Cowboys currently trail the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 20-0 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter in Dallas. Why do you care? Here's why: with a Cowboys loss, the Falcons could clinch a playoffs spot with a Bears loss on Sunday night regardless of what happens in their Monday Night Football game against the Saints in New Orleans.
The Falcons needed either the Giants or the Cowboys to lose, the Cardinals to lose and still need to the Bears to lose to pull this off. The Giants beat the Jets in the battle of New York and the Cardinals fell to the Bengals in Cincinnati. While the Cowboys game is not technically over, since Tony Romo is out with a hand injury, they don't have much chance of coming back from a 20-point deficit.
The Bears are still without Jay Cutler and have handed the reins over to Josh McCown after Caleb Hanie's struggles. The Bears are playing in Green Bay against the Packers, their high-powered offense and their defense which leads the league in interceptions on Sunday night.
It looks like all the stars are aligning for the Falcons in Week 16.
The stars have seemed to align for the Atlanta Falcons and the best Christmas present they receive could be a guaranteed playoff spot even before they play the Saints on Monday night in the Superdome.
Due to the fact that the Giants beat the Jets by a score of 19-14, combined with the Arizona Cardinals loss to the Bengals by a score of 23-16, the Falcons could get a guaranteed playoff berth with a Cowboys loss to the Eagles on Saturday afternoon and a Bears loss to the Packers on Sunday Night.
The Cowboys currently trail the Eagles early in the game and quarterback Tony Romo has injured his hand and his status is unclear. If the Eagles can hang on and beat the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, the Falcons would then only need to root for the Packers on Sunday night.
The Bears are still without starting quarterback Jay Cutler and and after Caleb Hanie's struggles, Chicago is going to be relying on Josh McCown to lead them to victory. McCown hasn't won a game in which he's thrown a pass in since 2007 and considering the Packers' high-powered offense and the fact that their defense leads the league in interceptions, there's a good chance the Falcons will get a playoff berth for Christmas.
The final pre-Monday round of injury reports is out for the Fancy Sponsor Name Superdome showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The biggest development: running back Mark Ingram is still doubtful after not practicing all week.
Wide receiver Lance Moore is questionable and missed the week's practice, while Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes is questionable after getting limited reps during Atlanta's extended week. The Falcons seem confident Grimes will play, despite his official status.
Grimes is a critical participant, especially with nickel back Kelvin Hayden doubtful. He might be the team's best defender, and has proved to be a nuisance for Drew Brees in the past. Mike Peterson may need to start at linebacker for Stephen Nicholas.
|DE John Abraham (not injury related)||DNP||FP||FP-P|
|TE Tony Gonzalez (not injury related)||DNP||FP||FP-P|
|C Todd McClure (not injury related)||DNP||FP||FP-P|
|CB Kelvin Hayden (toe)||DNP||DNP||DNP-D|
|CB Brent Grimes (knee)||LP||LP||LP-Q|
|T Will Svitek (groin)||LP||LP||FP-P|
|RB Michael Turner (groin)||DNP||LP||FP-P|
|WR Harry Douglas (groin)||LP||LP||LP-P|
|LB Curtis Lofton (ankle)||LP||LP||LP-P|
|LB Stephen Nicholas (toe)||DNP||DNP||DNP-D|
|CB Chris Owens (hand)||FP||FP||FP-P|
|DT Corey Peters (knee)||LP||LP||FP-P|
|RB Jason Snelling (illness)||DNP||DNP||FP-P|
|WR Kerry Meier (groin)||DNP||DNP-D|
|DT Sedrick Ellis (hamstring)||DNP||LP||LP-P|
|G Jahri Evans (knee)||DNP||DNP||LP-P|
|RB Mark Ingram (toe)||DNP||DNP||DNP-D|
|LP Jonathan Vilma (knee)||DNP||LP||LP-P|
|LB Jonathan Casillas (knee)||LP||LP||LP-D|
|DT Aubrayo Franklin (ankle)||LP||LP||FP-P|
|LB Ramon Humber (knee)||LP||LP||FP-P|
|WR Lance Moore (hamstring)||DNP||DNP-Q|
Give the gift of gambling this holiday season! The NFL has a full slate of Christmas Eve games, continuing to Monday's epic Falcons-Saints rematch. The picks are here!
NumbersFire.com is reporting that Roddy White is the third best receiver available for fantasy players this week, behind only Calvin Johnson of the Lions and Wes Welker of the Patriots. White is projected to have 11.02 total points from 5.72 receptions, 78.44 yards and 0.54 TDs against the Saints on Monday Night Football.
Against the Saints in Week 10, White only had four receptions for 62 yards and no scores, but the Pro-Bowl receiver has hit a season best stride of late, including three 100-plus yard receiving games and five touchdowns in the last five weeks. But White only has 307 yards and one score against NFC South opponents this year.
NumbersFire.com reports Atlanta Falcons' receiver Julio Jones projects to have 9.67 points this Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. Jones is predicted to have 4.38 receptions for total yardage of 64.32, and 0.46 total touchdowns. Numbers Fire lists Jones as a high risk profile.
After battling hamstring injuries, the rookie from Alabama has shown more productivity in recent weeks, catching two touchdown passes against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 and one score early in last week's 41-14 Falcons rout of Jacksonville. Against the Panthers, Jones recorded his third 100-yard plus receiving day.
Jones has 42 receptions for 752 yards through 11 games this season for five touchdowns, but all five have come against losing teams (two vs. Carolina, two vs. Indianapolis, one vs. Jacksonville).
The New Orleans Saints have been on a tear in their pursuit of the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoff picture, but they will meet the game Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. Looking at the Saints' injury report, though, it's hard to see what New Orleans will be without for Monday night.
Jahri Evans and Mark Ingram are the only Saints who have not practiced with the team on either day, and both are nursing injuries that have helped diminish the New Orleans running game. But the only other piece Drew Brees might be missing on offense is receiver Lance Moore, who joined the did not participate section on Friday due to a hamstring injury.
Here's the rest of Friday's edition of the Saints injury report for Week 16:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Jahri Evans (knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe), WR Lance Moore (hamstring).
FULL PARTICIPATION: none.
The Atlanta Falcons will take the field against the New Orleans Saints on Monday, likely with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. The Falcons' relative health should help them in a Week 16 NFC South showdown.
Neither cornerback Kelvin Hayden nor linebacker Stephen Nicholas participated in practice on Friday, but a triumvirate of veterans usually held out of practice to keep them fresh did. Those players, John Abraham, Tony Gonzalez, and Todd McClure, have routinely been DNPs on practice reports in 2011, but all three fully participated on Friday.
Here's the rest of Friday's edition of the Falcons injury report for Week 16:
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE John Abraham (not injury-related), TE Tony Gonzalez (not injury-related), C Todd McClure (not injury-related), CB Chris Owens (hand).
In the biggest game of their season, the 9-5 Atlanta Falcons are +6.5 road underdogs against the 11-3 New Orleans Saints.
With New Orleans hosting the 5-9 Carolina Panthers in Week 17, Atlanta is probably locked into one of the NFC's two wild-card sports regardless of the outcome of the Monday night game.
However, a win over a team that is currently tied for the No. 2 seed in the NFC would give the Falcons an immeasurable amount of confidence headed into the playoffs, especially after their bitter home OT loss to the Saints in Week 10.
Defeating the Saints starts with stopping their league-leading passing attack, especially in the friendly confines of the Superdome. For the season, New Orleans QB Drew Brees has completed 71.5% of his passes for 4,780 passing yards, 37 TD's and 11 INT's.
However, the Saints secondary gives up nearly as many yards as their offense gains, as they are ranked 28th in the NFL in pass defense. In their first game against Atlanta, they gave up 351 passing yards to Matt Ryan.
With two explosive offenses going head-to-head, the odds-makers have set the over/under for the game at 53 points.
Several of the Atlanta Falcons' veteran players didn't practice on Thursday, but that's normal for a Wednesday during game week, which is what the coaching staff is treating Thursday as during a lengthened prep schedule for Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints.
The usual names - center Todd McClure, tight end Tony Gonzalez and defensive end John Abraham - sat out Thursday's sessions, while starting running back Michael Turner had the day off as well, nursing a lingering groin injury.
Among the freshly injured and recovering, cornerback Brent Grimes was listed as having "limited participation" Thursday as he recovers from knee surgery. He's expected to play Monday night against the Saints. Also limited was left tackle Will Svitek (groin), receiver Harry Douglas (groin), linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee). Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe) and backup running back Jason Snelling (illness) did not practice.
In New Orleans, the Saints held out four players - running back Mark Ingram (toe), linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), guard Jahri Evans (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring). Three Saints were limited on Thursday - linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (ankle) and linebacker Ramon Humber (knee).
In one of the more memorable games of the 2011 season, the New Orleans Saints were able to get by the Atlanta Falcons 26-23 on November 13th that will be remembered for the yard that wasn't gained and the talent that wasn't on the field for that game.
Michael Turner was stuffed on 4th and 1 on their own side of the field that helped the Saints defeat the Falcons in overtime. The offensive line was banged up, wide receiver Julio Jones went out with a hamstring injury and for many in Atlanta they feel like they let one get away.
Coach Mike Smith spoke on Wednesday on having the entire arsenal of offensive weapons prepared for the second matchup with the Saints:
"We certainly are in better shape in terms of the health of the players in the wide receiver group right now than we were the first time we played them."
The Saints will host the Falcons on Monday Night Football on the day after Christmas.
Every NFL game has a great deal of randomness and unsurety, but if you're betting on one thing in this week of football it should probably be that Drew Brees will break Dan Marino's passing record on Monday night. It's ludicrous to imagine, but even needing 305 passing yards, history favors the New Orleans' QB as he's topped 300 yards every game since Week 2.
However, there is a stout team the Saints are facing off against in the Falcons, and they've had ample time to ready themselves for the offensive onslaught. Fans will have been waiting 11 days to see Matt Ryan and Co. take the field after the long Thursday night to Monday night break. Thankfully the break has come at an opportune time so head coach Mike Smith can recover more after suffering heart complications following the Falcons' win against Carolina a little over a week ago.
As it stands the Saints are being favored by a touchdown in a high scoring affair. The over/under is set at 53 points right now, and seems to be a product more of two high powered offenses, rather than condemnations of the defenses. The Falcons and Saints are ranked 2nd and 10th respectively averaging a combined 57 pts per game, so it would appear that Vegas is setting the line a touch lower than expected. Personally, I think this game will be every bit of the high scoring affair it's predicted to be with both offenses excelling in areas their opponent struggles to cover.
It's the spread that I'm struggling with a little. On paper it seems like this is a game New Orleans should manage to win, but the NFC South is a curious beast. Week 10 continues to echo in my memory as the Saints just edged out the Falcons by a field goal. At that time Atlanta were struggling with injuries, and Matt Ryan wasn't at his best. Personally, I think the Falcons are primed to steal a game this week while the focus is on Brees and his pursuit of the passing record.
If I'm you then I'm taking the over, and I'm taking the Falcons.
Though the Atlanta Falcons have to face the New Orleans Saints in yet another prime time game at the Sponsor Name Superdome, the Birds do have one advantage: extra preparation and rest time. The Falcons played the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday night, and was even able to pull its starters early, while the Saints had to play Sunday. You take what you can get.
And with Brent Grimes just about ready to come back from injury, those extra few days could prove very valuable. Not to mention the Old Guy Crew's regular midweek rest can be extended a day or two in each direction.
Mike Smith on all this free time:
When we started the season and we put the calendar up to our players, basically that's how we described it. We go through the entire season. We want our guys to know what they're going to be doing on Thanksgiving, what they're going to be doing on Christmas. This week happens to fall on Christmas. We talked about the sequencing of a Thursday night game followed by a Monday night game and just as you said, we're looking at this as ‘a mini bye week' in terms of the amount of time that we had off. The guys will basically have had five days off between games and at this stage in the season, we think it's beneficial both physically and mentally to have guys get an opportunity to rest and recharge their batteries for the final two games of the season.
According to VegasInsider.com, the New Orleans Saints are favored to beat the Atlanta Falcons at home by a touchdown on Monday Night Football in Week 16. The Saints have already locked a spot in the playoffs with an 11-3 record through Week 15 but they still have plenty to play for. They can lock up the NFC South title with a win over the Falcons.
The Falcons can lock a spot in the playoffs by beating the Saints on the road and moving into Week 17 with a 10-5 record. They can also possibly win the division but they need to beat the Saints to do so.
Grimes has missed the last four Falcons games after undergoing minor knee surgery on December 1. Grimes had been playing with a sore knee since Atlanta's win over the Detroit Lions on October 23, but had to leave the November 27 game against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter.
The return of Grimes to action would be huge for the game against the Saints, as his presence on the secondary would provide a definite edge to containing the potent Drew Brees passing game.
An NFC South showdown against the Saints will give Atlanta a good idea of where they stand before the playoffs begin.
After being an NFL laughing stock for a very long time, the Atlanta Falcons have now posted four straight winning records under Thomas Dimitroff, and appear poised for their third playoff appearance in four years as well. Have fans been spoiled by this newfound consistency of excellence? Can the American public handle the idea of a Falcons team that looks to be very good for several years to come?
The New Orleans Saints can clinch the NFC South division with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons in their Monday night matchup in Week 16.
New Orleans' win over Minnesota in Week 15 moves the Saints to within a win or a Falcons loss of the NFC South crown.
For this final installment of the schedule preview, we'll be looking at the Falcons' second round of NFC South matchups this season. Interestingly enough, Atlanta faces the Saints, Bucs and Panthers all within the last four weeks of the season. Should make the division race interesting, to say the least.
Even though the Falcons went 5-1 against the South last season, this still remains probably the toughest division in football. The Saints are one of the NFC's elite teams. The Buccaneers have loads of young talent, and very easily could've been in the playoffs last season. And despite having a 2-14 record, the Panthers still have several star players on their roster, particularly defense.
The Falcons should be able to take two from the Cam Newton-led Panthers, if only for the fact that their passing game will be non-existent. Steve Smith can only do so much by himself. The defense has some intimidating guys like Jon Beason and Charles Johnson, but there are a few unproven starters as well. The offense may start finding their stride down the stretch, but that still won't be enough to win.
The Saints will again provide a tough challenge. Probably the best football I saw all of last year was between the Falcons and Saints. However, last year we saw the second matchup become a battle of defense. Both teams had their opponent's gameplan nailed down. I think we could be in for a similar game this season. The Falcons will turn back to basics and run the ball with authority, Brent Grimes will pick off a shovel pass, and Jon Gruden will praise Drew Brees shamelessly. All in all, I think the Falcons scrape by in another close one.
The most important of these matchups in my humble opinion, however, is the Buccaneers. In the final week of the season, two teams very likely in playoff contention will do battle in the Georgia Dome. Even though the Falcons took two from the Bucs last season, both wins were by less than a touchdown. Mobile QB's always seem to find success against Van Gorder, and the front seven should be better equipped to handle Turner this year. Raheem Morris' squad always plays hard, and this could be the most physiical game we see all year.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For everything Saints, check out Canal Street Chronicles.
For everything Bucs, check out Bucs Nation. For everything Panthers, check out Cat Scratch Reader.
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