This game was supposed to mean more.
Of course, every game in the NFL means a lot to the guys playing it, but we expected the Atlanta Falcons to be good and vying for—if not owning outright—first place in the NFC South.
That’s not how things worked out though, due to injuries and so this game has lost a bit of its luster.
That’s not to say we won’t be watching and that there isn’t a lot worth watching.
It’s just not the things we thought would be things we needed to watch.
- What’s really going on with Matt Ryan? Sure, the Falcons lost a lot of their offensive weapons for stretches this season but Ryan himself has looked off. If you don’t watch a lot of Falcons football, you might be struck by how…un-Ryan-like he looks compared to the playoffs last year. Roddy White is starting to look better, as is Steven Jackson and Tony Gonzalez hasn’t lost any steam (statistics aside). Can Ryan start to look like he did in 2012?
- Aside from wondering whether Drew Brees’ neck is stretched like a giraffes’ after the hit from Ahmad Brooks* last week, the Saints themselves have been pretty consistent. The defense has been outstanding and the offense—even with Jimmy Graham’s injury issues—has been solid, albeit not as high-flying as in years past. Their only blemishes have taken place on the road—a loss to the New England Patriots and one to the New York Jets. This is the first of two road games. Can they keep focused?
- Are we watching a changing of the guard in Atlanta’s receiving corps? Roddy White has definitely been slowed by age while Harry Douglas has routinely performed at a high level despite little help against opposing secondaries. This will be another tough test but a good game and we may have witnessed a baton being passed.
*Special note of thanks to Footballguys boss Joe Bryant for the Brees gif—he had it in his “Random Shots” column this week.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.