As week three gets underway, it’s anyone’s guess who will win the NFC South as the Saints come back to the pack and the Panthers have flattered to deceive. The Falcons travel to Indianapolis looking to take control of the division, while the Saints visit the Pacific Northwest with more than a few questions at QB.
Falcons @ Colts – 6PM
The Colts host the Falcons with questions around both teams and their respective divisions. Jacoby Brissett is dangerous but beatable. The Falcons running game needs to get going and test the Colts, who rank in the bottom half of the league in rush defence. Darius Leonard will make plays but Devonta Freeman needs a performance before Atlanta hands the keys to Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison.
The Falcons offence in general hasn’t clicked. Despite being packed full of skill position talent, they aren’t a top ten passing offence. Can they get Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley into the game and making big plays?
Is the Falcons defence for real?
The most impressive thing about the Falcons so far this season is their defence by yardage. Part of it was the Vikings’ successful game plan in week one. Is it a statistical anomaly or can Atlanta back it up? If Desmond Trufant can limit TY Hilton, the Falcons’ pass defence could have another good performance.
That leaves Marlon Mack (and the Colts’ O-Line) versus the Falcons’ D-Line. So far, teams have rushed to the outside to avoid Grady Jarrett. The Falcons need to control the perimeter throughout the game. Otherwise it will damage their pass rush, which only has four sacks so far.
Can Atlanta handle the hype?
The Falcons hold the joint lead of the division but we still don’t know who they are. Now they have a chance to work their way into the playoff race with coin-flip games while the Saints and Panthers are walking wounded.
Atlanta have been to the Super Bowl with this regime, they know how to win big games. Now they need to get back to it.
Verdict: Falcons 24, Colts 21
Saints @ Seahawks – 9:25PM
New Orleans’ first game without Drew Brees is a tough one in Seattle, who looked shaky against the Bengals, then strong against the Steelers. That said, they’re 2-0 and looking to make a big move in the playoff race. Losing games like this, which would open up a two game gap between the Saints and the top of the conference, would be tough for NOLA to recover from.
Who starts at QB for the Saints?
The Saints have announced Teddy Bridgewater as the starter, though Sean Payton has more than hinted that Taysom Hill will see considerable action. Hill has definitely looked more productive and if the Saints take Brees off the field to use Hill, the must trust him. That said, you lose the element of surprise if Hill is the full time starter.
What’s more, whichever option they go with, which will likely be Bridgewater, the Saints offence will have inexperience under centre. It’s nearly four years since Bridgewater was playing regularly in Minnesota. The crowd will be up for it at CenturyLink, chasing 3-0 and smelling blood; Bridgewater and Hill can expect a ferocious atmosphere.
Even so, the running game hasn’t looked right, with 205 yards, middle of the road in the league. Kamara has 140 yards but once again their isn’t much production behind him. The same can be said behind Michael Thomas. The Saints spread the ball around against the Texans but they lack a trustworthy option if Thomas is nullified.
Can the Saints defence step up?
The Saints defence has not lived up to its billing so far. While they have got nine sacks, New Orleans have been leaking yards. They got away with it against the Texans and yes they were solid in LA but they couldn’t keep the team in the game in the second half.
Now they are facing a frisky offence in the Seahawks, with Russell Wilson under centre. Plus they will be needed for the Saints to compete. It is time for moves like trading up for Marcus Davenport need to prove their worth.
The Seahawks are effective but not explosive on offence. If the Saints’ defence can’t keep the team in the game, barring a complete offensive implosion, there will be no excuses.
Assuming they can set the edge and don’t allow Wilson out of the pocket, that limits the Seahawks’ offence. DK Metcalf is too inexperienced to win the game on his own and the running backs are far from unstoppable, with Rashaad Penny expected to miss the game. That said, with the Saints leaking yards, Tyler Lockett is poised for a big game.
Verdict: Seahawks 24, Saints 17
Image: Bill Feig / AP