One of the most heated rivalries in the NFL resumes on Sunday with an explosive NFC South showdown.
For the Saints, a defence that was much improved last year has so far regressed in a major way and been the main culprit for the team nearly being 0-2.
New Orleans’ secondary has been repeatedly roasted, surrendering a league-worst 133.0 passer rating to Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor through the first two weeks. The unit as a whole is allowing the fourth-most passing yards (325.5), most passing yards per attempt (11.4) and second-most points (33.0), which makes them especially vulnerable heading into a match-up with a talented Falcons attack.
Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Co are poised to take advantage, particularly after they solved their red zone woes last week, when they unsurprisingly converted all four of their chances inside their opponent’s 20-yard line after going away from the end-zone fade.
Atlanta will have to score plenty though to take the pressure off their banged-up defence, which is without key playmakers Deion Jones and Keanu Neal.
In their place will be linebacker Duke Riley and safety Damontae Kazee, respectively, but as much speed as the pair possess to match the rest of Dan Quinn’s unit, they’ll have an even tougher time against Drew Brees than they did against Cam Newton last week.
Brees should attack the back-ups relentlessly and manipulate them with his eye movement to open up passing lanes for Michael Thomas and underneath routes for Alvin Kamara.
There should be no shortage of points in the contest, and with the unbeaten Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking like a legitimate threat in the division, the loser of the clash will be in a serious hole at 1-2.
Here’s a look at other talking points in Week 3.
EAGLES WHOLE AGAIN
After a long wait to get back on the field, Carson Wentz will make his much-anticipated return on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Philadelphia Eagles have managed just fine without the face of their franchise over the last year, but with the Nick Foles magic appearing to have worn off, they could certainly use their starting quarterback again.
Through two weeks, the Eagles rank in the bottom 10 of the league in many offensive statistical categories, including passer rating (79.7), yards (322.0) and points (19.5).
Considering Wentz hasn’t played a competitive game since he tore his ACL on December 11, 2017, it may take him some time to shake off the rust and look like himself again. When he was healthy last season, the 25-year-old was arguably the front runner for MVP and dominant on third downs, against pressure and in the red zone. Even disregarding his injury layoff though, his effectiveness in those areas should see a bit of regression.
Wentz also won’t be stepping into an ideal situation as many of Philadelphia’s wide receivers are hurt. Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins are on the injured reserve, while Alshon Jeffery continues to be sidelined with a shoulder injury. Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz should be heavily involved, but Wentz won’t have many reliable pass-catchers to work with outside of them.
TEACHER VERSUS PUPIL
Matt Patricia will become the latest Bill Belichick disciple to meet his former team after leaving the nest.
While Patricia, who served as the Patriots defensive coordinator from 2012-2017, couldn’t be more familiar with what New England do, the way his Detroit Lions have started the season suggests Belichick will improve on his 11-4 record against former assistants.
The Patriots offence could choose to attack in a number of ways, but as bad as the Lions have been against the pass – allowing the third-highest passer rating in the league at 117.7 – they’ve been even worse against the run, giving up a league-worst 179.5 yards per game and 5.6 yards per rush.
After making his debut last week, New England rookie running back Sony Michel should have plenty of opportunity to carve up Detroit.
It will also be interesting to see how much Josh Gordon is used after being traded from Cleveland at the beginning of the week. The wide receiver has the potential to be a major weapon for Tom Brady, but at the start he should be limited to a small package of routes to keep what is an otherwise complex offence simple for him.
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