The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta falcons will be battling for dominance in an NFC South war that begins this Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This is perhaps the most interesting opening game in the NFL this Sunday because there are just so many questions surrounding these two teams.
Recent history indicates a flip flop in the NFC South, a division that never sees consecutive champions. The Falcons were the cream of the crop last season, running out to 13-3 and tearing up the rest of the division. Except for New Orleans. The Saints ended a Falcons undefeated season after eight wins. In fact, the Saints have won eight of the last ten games against Atlanta. Talk about having your number.
Sean Payton returns to the sidelines in this opener, an emotional factor that can’t be denied. The Superdome will be loud and excited and a dangerous place to begin your season. Payton’s overall effect on the Saints persona can be debated but you can’t deny his prowess calling plays from the sidelines. Payton and Drew Brees operate on a wavelength, a mental beam that keeps both of them sharp and rarely fails. For the New Orleans Saints the biggest answers will be found on a defense that is trying to recover from a horrible showing in 2012. Whether Rob Ryan has the answers will make the difference between the playoffs or another year of building for New Orleans.
The Falcons seem to have it all. They’ve made changes on defense, going with younger players and experience and chemistry could be a concern. On the other hand they’ve got nearly as much offense as the Saints and the addition of Steven Jackson adds a new dimension to their running game. We’ll find out just how much Jackson has left in his tank as the season progresses.
This is not a do or die game. But neither the Saints nor the Falcons want to be behind the eight ball when this thing is over. For the Saints it’s a return to glory statement. For the Falcons it’s their first opportunity in 2013 to protect their hard won NFC South Championship.