Falcons hope to slow sizzling Saints

No NFL team, not even the 10-1 Los Angeles Rams, is hotter than the Saints right now, and that should make for a highly seasoned NFC South battle when the Atlanta Falcons come to New Orleans for a little Thanksgiving night dessert.

After dropping their season opener at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — a distant memory given the current reality — the Saints have reeled off nine consecutive victories, the longest streak in the league.

New Orleans owns a commanding three-game game in the division over the second-place Carolina Panthers (6-4) and a five-game edge over the third-place Falcons (4-6).

The Saints not only defeated the Rams 45-35 on Nov. 4, but they also followed up that statement victory by pummeling the Cincinnati Bengals 51-14 on the road and then routing the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 48-7 on Sunday.

The 144 points New Orleans scored over the past three games — a 48-point average — set a franchise record, and that’s a strong achievement considering the Saints have been a top-five offense since Sean Payton took over in 2006.

“There’s a handful of teams that appear to be operating at a high level like that,” Payton said when asked about the NFL’s offensive explosion this season. “Rules have changed over the years. That has benefited the offense. Some of these quarterbacks are further along coming out of college because of their experience throwing the football.”

Brees putting together MVP season

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 39 and has played 18 seasons, but he is having perhaps his best season. He has thrown for 25 touchdowns against only one interception, and his 76.9 percent completion rate is easily tops in the league.

Brees completed 22 of 30 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over Philadelphia. One key has been his ability to spread the ball around when defenses try to eliminate receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara with double coverage.

“I told the young guys (receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr), ‘Today is your day. You’re going to have opportunities today. You are one-on-one. Be ready, I’m going to you guys,'” Brees said of his attack plan against the Eagles.

The Falcons are coming off a disappointing 22-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but they have been playing teams closely. Three of their past four losses have come by three points, one point and in overtime.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said while he respects the Saints’ offensive firepower, he does not feel the need to have to press to keep up with Brees. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, however, believes field goals are not going to be good enough against New Orleans.

Ryan said, “The job for us is to score every time we get into the red zone, and that’s no different than any other week in terms of our mindset as an offense. When we get our chances, we have to convert, and we’ve been doing a good job of that for most of the year. Obviously, we know that they’re explosive and capable of making plays, but every game shakes out differently. I’ve been in all kinds of different ones throughout my career. I try to prepare myself the same week every week.”

The Falcons may get some relief for their injury-riddled defense with the possible return of linebacker Deion Jones, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury. The Saints could again be without starting left tackle Terron Armstead (pectoral muscle).

–Field Level Media

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