Atlanta Falcons: Sizing Up the 2017 New Orleans Saints

Photo credit: Sporting News

With training camp approaching quickly, we’re taking a look at each of the Atlanta Falcons’ divisional rivals. Next up are the New Orleans Saints.

While things are somewhat quiet these days for the Atlanta Falcons and the rest of the NFL’s 31 clubs, it’s as good as time as any to scout out each of the team’s NFC South rivals on an individual basis. From recent history between the clubs to a look ahead to this season, we got things started with the much-improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now it’s time to look at the New Orleans Saints.

2016 Results: There has been an amazing turnaround in this series in recent years. From 2006-13, Atlanta owned a 3-13 record vs. their longtime rivals. This past season, the Falcons swept the series for the second time in three years and is 4-2 in the last six meetings. Last season, on a Monday night at New Orleans (Week 3), Atlanta rolled to a 45-32 win. In the season finale in Atlanta, Dan Quinn’s club managed a 38-32 triumph.

2017 Meetings: The Falcons play five of their final six games against their NFC South rivals. Both of their clashes with the Saints come in December. Atlanta hosts New Orleans on a Thursday night in Week 14. Two weeks later (Week 16), the Falcons head to the Superdome.

Analysis: It has been somewhat of an unlucky offseason for Sean Payton’s club. Offseason surgeries to left tackle Terron Armstead and center Max Unger has those two players on the mend. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Nick Fairley will miss the season due to his heart condition.

Offensively, prolific quarterback Drew Brees gets ready for a 17th NFL season and No. 12 with the Saints. The team dealt wideout Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots but Michael Thomas had a dynamic rookie season. The club still has wideout Willie Snead and tight end Coby Fleener while Mark Ingram will be joined in the backfield by 10-year running back Adrian Peterson. Veteran speedster Ted Ginn also bolsters the wide receiving corps.

But has this team made any strides on defense? New Orleans added defensive end Alex Okafor (Arizona Cardinals) and linebacker A.J. Klein (Carolina Panthers) via free agency. In the draft, they grabbed cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State) in the first round and safety Marcus Williams (Utah) in the second.

Can the New Orleans Saints but an end to three straight seasons of 7-9 finishes. A lot depends on the defense. In two losses to the Falcons in ’16, Payton’s team allowed a combined 73 points.

Russell S. Baxter covers the Atlanta Falcons for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @baxfootballguru. Looking for more Falcons news and features? Like our Falcons Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_falcons on Twitter.

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