Atlanta (5-0) at New Orleans (1-4), 8:30 p.m. on CBS and NFL Network. Peaches vs. gumbo. The Big Peach vs. the Big Easy. Football’s answer to the Hatfields vs. McCoys. A pair of old NFC South foes, separated by 488 miles, open play in week six as Matt Ryan and the Falcons travel to New Orleans to face off against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Atlanta trailed Washington 7-3 at halftime last Sunday in the Georgia Dome as K Matt Bryant missed a pair of field goals (one attempt hitting the crossbar) that would have sent the Falcons into the locker room with the lead. They would eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter when WR Julio Jones recovered a fumble in the end zone for a 12-7 lead that would not last very long, because the Redskins used a 3-play, 80 yard drive to take the lead back when RB Matt Jones scored from two yards out. Washington would add a 28 yard field goal by Daniel Hopkins with 2:38 left to play.

Atlanta would respond as they would make a Sherman-like march downfield which was capped by a 6 yard run by Devonte Freeman with 24 seconds left and fans at the Georgia Dome thought that would be the end of it. But to paraphrase Al Pacino “just when they thought we were out, they brought us back in” as Washington would have a drive of their own and as the clock struck :00, Hopkins nailed a 52 yard field goal to send the contest into overtime.

“I thought this was a really clear demonstration of our determination, grit and mindset to finish,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “All around there were plays offensively, defensively and on special teams that we made. There is a lot to take and learn from and we can continue to get better.”

Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown in his third career start. Freeman, who previously rushed for six touchdowns in his first two career starts, is the first player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to rush for at least seven touchdowns in his first three starts to begin a career.

Entering Week 6, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan looks to continue his success on Thursdays. Ryan has a 4-1 career record as a starter on Thursdays. Ryan has 10 touchdown passes on Thursdays, tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most in the NFC since 2010.

“We’ll be on top of our game plan heading into Thursday night,” says Ryan about facing the Saints.

Washington would get the ball to start the overtime and would keep the ball for all of six plays and on that sixth play, disaster struck Redskins fans as CB Robert Alford (who earlier in the contest had a pass interference penalty) returned an Cousins pass 59 yards for an interception and the game-winning TD. Atlanta outrushed Washington 176-51 (with Freeman leading all rushers with 153) in the overtime contest, while both Cousins and Falcons QB Matt Ryan each threw a pair of interceptions. Neither club did much on third down tries (Washington was 4 of 12, Atlanta was 6 of 15) but each found success on fourth downs as the Redskins were 1 of 1, while Atlanta was 3 of 3 and the clock favored the victorious Falcons, who kept the ball for 34:56, while the Redskins kept it for 27:49.

Ten of the previous 13 matchups between the Falcons and Saints have been decided by one score entering their Week 6 contest.

New Orleans enters Week 6 following a 39-17 loss at Philadelphia. The Saints were held to 96 yards rushing in the City of Brotherly Love against the Eagles and although Drew Brees threw for 335 yards and a pair of TDs, he found himself being sacked five times and tossed a pair of interceptions in the loss. New Orleans did reasonably well on third down tries, going 8 of 16 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 25:58, while the Eagles held on to it for 34:02 and went 4 of 11 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries.

“We need to keep fighting and stay within ourselves,” says New Orleans wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who had five receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia. “We need to get back to work tomorrow. It is a short turnaround but we all have to go through it. We need to go home, fix the mistakes and get a win on Thursday against Atlanta.”

The Saints enter Week 6 having won six of their past 10 games against the Falcons. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has won seven of his nine starts at home with New Orleans against Atlanta.

Since joining New Orleans in 2006, Brees has led the Saints to a 25-11 (.694) record in regular season primetime games (any game that starts 7 p.m. or later on the East Coast), the third-best record of any team during that span. With a win on Thursday night, New Orleans can tie the New England Patriots (26) for the second-most wins in primetime since 2006.

Brees has 87 touchdown passes during primetime games, trailing only Peyton Manning (106) for the most during that span. His 11,090 passing yards are also the fourth-most on primetime since 2006.
Atlanta leads the series 48-43 and have outscored New Orleans 1,992-1,870. With the two being divisional rivals, they met last year and Atlanta took both contests, winning in the Big Easy and the Big Peach (New Orleans’ last win came in 2013, when they swept the season series with Atlanta).

They met right off the bat as both teams opened the season in Atlanta and the Falcons needed overtime to take a 37-34 win over the Saints in the Georgia Dome. Atlanta rallied from being down by a field goal to tie things up when K Matt Bryant connected on a 51-yard field goal as the clock struck :00. Atlanta then got the ball back after New Orleans’ first possesion in overtime yielded nothing and it was Bryant again going long distance, this time from 52 yards to send the home crowd happy. Even though they were outrushed by the Saints 139-123, Ryan did manage to outdo Brees 448-333 with three TD passes thrown. WR Julio Jones was responsible for 116 of Ryan’s yards on seven catches, while Saints WR Marcus Colston had 110 yards pn five catches. Both clubs did very well on third down conversions as New Orleans went 8 of 13, while Atlanta was 6 of 11. As far as the clock was concerned, time was on the side of Atlanta, who held the ball for 31:18, while New Orleans had it for 30:25.

Game two took place in the Big Easy in week 16 and for the Saints, the wheels fell off their Mardi Gras float as the Falcons erased a 7-3 first quarter deficit to take a 30-14 win in the Superdome. Atlanta led 13-7 at the half and took ownership of the second half by outscoring their hosts 17-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. The Falcons would later add insult to injury late in the game when LB Osi Umenyiora made a linebacker’s dream come true as he returned a Saints fumble 86 yards for a TD as time ran out. In the second meeting, neither team breached the 100-yard rushing barrier but Atlanta won that battle by outrushing the Saints 81-57 and the Falcons defense made life somewhat misterable for Brees, as they sacked him five times and picked him off twice. Ryan again ruled the air, throwing for 322 yards with a TD and was not sacked or intercepted, while Brees threw for 313. The Falcons in the second contest on third down conversions went 7 of 15 and kept the ball for 32:09, while the Saints were 7 of 14 (1 of 2 on fourth down tries) and held the ball for 27:51.

In the week one affair in Atlanta, the Saints were favored by 3 but the Falcons won in overtime, allowing them to cover the spread and the combined 71 points allowed both teams to cover the 52 over/under. The Saints were once again favored, this time by 6 1/2 and the Falcons made the oddsmakers happy by covering the spread with their 16-point but this time, both teams missed the 55 1/2 over/under, scoring only 44 points. The Falcons are favored by 3 and the over/under for the Thursday night contest in the Big Easy is 51. Did I mention that they’re rivals and they don’t like each other? New Orleans will make it intesting and cause their NFC South rivals problems but the Falcons remain unbeaten as they cover the 3 and take the win in the Big Easy.

BROADCAST INFORMATION: CBS/NFL Network at 7:30 p.m. Eastern: Jim Nantz, Phill Simms, Tracy Wolfson (field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Tony Boselli. SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Atlanta), 93 (New Orleans). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 225 (New Orleans).

Injury Report

Atlanta
OUT: LB Justin Durant (Elbow), C Michael Person (Ankle)
PROBABLE: WR Julio Jones (Toe), RB Devonta Freeman (Toe), WR Leonard Hankerson (Ribs)

New Orleans
OUT: G Timothy Lelito (Shoulder), P Thomas Morstead (Quad), CB Damian Swann (Concussion)
DOUBTFUL: T Terron Armstead (Knee), WR Marques Colston (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Bobby Richardson (Hip)
PROBABLE: DT Johnathan Jenkins (Elbow), CB Keenan Lewis (Hip), S Jairus Byrd (Knee), G Jahri Evans (Knee)

Weather Outlook: Game indoors.

Broadcast Information and injury report courtesy the National Football, odds courtesy Don Best and USA Today.

Advertisements