WHEN: Noon Sunday

WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

TV: Fox

RADIO: WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge

RECORDS: The Falcons were 2-2 in the preseason and 4-12 in 2013. The Saints were 3-1 in the preseason and 11-5 in 2013, making it to the divisional playoffs.

LAST WEEK: The Saints lost to Baltimore at home 22-13. The Falcons won at Jacksonville 24-14

COACHES: Falcons, Mike Smith, seventh season (60-36); Saints, Sean Payton, eighth season (73-39)

NFL rankings (2013)

(League rank in parentheses)


Points: Saints, 25.9 (10); Falcons, 22.1 (20)

Total yards: Saints, 399.4 (4); Falcons, 343.1 (14)

Rushing: Saints, 92.1 (25); Falcons, 77.9 (32)

Passing: Saints, 307.4 (2); Falcons, 265.2 (7)


Points: Saints, 19 (4); Falcons, 27.7 (27)

Total yards: Saints, 305.7 (4); Falcons, 379.4 (27t)

Rushing: Saints, 111.6 (19); Falcons, 135.8 (31)

Passing: Saints, 194.1 (2); Falcons, 243.6 (21)


FALCONS: Quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, wide receiver Roddy White, running back Steven Jackson, outside linebacker Osi Umenyiora, defensive tackle Paul Soliai

SAINTS: Quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Marques Colston, tight end Jimmy Graham, running back Pierre Thomas, defensive end Cameron Jordan, safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Keenan Lewis

Three phases

1 Offense: The Falcons are hoping to get their passing game back on track with the return of 2012 Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones, who missed most of 2013 with a foot fracture. Jones will be the responsibility of No. 1 Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis. Expect Jones’ two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan and receiving partner Roddy White — himself a four-time Pro Bowler — to test No. 2 Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, who missed most of 2013 with a knee injury but recovered to win a projected starting job over the likes of 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, whom New Orleans released after training camp.

2 Defense: The best the Falcons have on the defensive side of the ball is a beefy line. Tackles Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, and Corey Peters have a track record of stopping the run, setting things up for a pass-rusher such as two-time Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora. Soliai, Jackson and Peters will count on help from defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann in run-stuffing.

3 Special teams: Nine-year pro Devin Hester may not be in his prime anymore, but nothing changes the fact that he has the most career punt-return touchdowns (13) in NFL history and most punt-return yards (3,241) among active players. The Saints’ coverage units have a lot of respect for Hester, who was in Chicago from 2006-13 and has a personal head-to-head record of 3-2 against New Orleans, counting the playoffs.

The talking point

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a 13-3 record against Atlanta, and coach Sean Payton is 12-2. Yet both will downplay those lopsided marks, countering with their own stat that they say illustrates how difficult of an opponent Atlanta has really been year-in and year-out.

Six or fewer points have separated the teams in eight of the 12 meetings between the Saints and the Falcons under coach Mike Smith. The difference in a ninth encounter was nine points.

Nonetheless, the Falcons continued bringing the best out of Brees last year. Brees completed 49 of the 68 passes (72 percent) that he threw in two wins against Atlanta in 2013 for 635 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. His average passer rating of 114.6 in those two games was well above his season mark of 104.7.

-- Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas