In the early 2000's, I can't quite recall this rivalry being all that exciting. However, over the past few seasons we've seen the hatred between these two teams rise up (see what I did there) into something much more intense, mostly stemming from the Saints' Superbowl victory of two seasons ago. Roddy White tweeted some stuff, Saints players danced on the Falcon logo, and everyone just got really pissed off. That does, however, make for great football.
Record: Finished 11-5 in 2010,
lost got embarrassed by the Seahawks in the Wild Card game
Last Meeting: Week 16, 2010 (Falcons lost 14-17)
Notable Additions: DT Aubrayo Franklin, C Olin Kreutz, DT Shaun Rogers, RB Darren Sproles RB Mark Ingram (draft pick), DE Cameron Jordan (draft pick)
Notable Losses: RB Reggie Bush, DT Remi Ayodele, DT Anthony Hargrove, DB Usama Young
By all accounts, the Saints seem to have had a pretty successful offseason on paper. They traded Bush, but signed Sproles to fill that role. They also drafted some running back out of Alabama, though I can't say I'm familiar with him. The most underrated signing this offseason, however, could be the D-tackle Franklin. Pairing him with Sedrick Ellis gives the Saints a very good run-stopping combo up front. The Falcons improved with Julio/Edwards, but the Saints kept pace.
If you recall, both matchups in 2010 were extremely contested, emotionally charged matchups that stayed close until the very end. Some Saints fans argue that they should have won the week three overtime loss, but I argue that if your kicker can't make a 27-yarder, you don't deserve to win. Just saying.
The most recent matchup tacked the Falcons with a very frustrating loss, to say the least. Despite the defense's ability to hem in Brees, the offense couldn't get it done. The Saints pretty much shut down Turner, who was playing injured down the stretch of another 300+ carry season. The offense just couldn't get it done.
In 2011, I think we can expect this game to have much more scoring involved. Both teams have great quarterbacks and a plethora of offensive weapons. What this game will come down to, however, are Atlanta's front seven. With Ingram, Sproles, and Pierre Thomas all on board, the Falcons can't simply play the pass all day. The linebackers have to shut down the run, or else they can expect to be eaten alive by the play-action pass.
While the Eagles and/or Packers game might be more intriguing, this first game versus the Saints will likely be the most important. The NFC South title and playoff implications will all be on the line. It's also about time for some revenge after this cute little stunt last year:
via blogs.ajc.com "Hey look, they're cocky just like their fans"
Anything less than a Saints rear-end whooping this year will be dissatisfying, and I'm sure the players feel the same way. Go Falcons!