METAIRIE — A quirk in the schedule has the New Orleans Saints playing the Atlanta Falcons, their longtime divisional rivals, twice in a span of 19 days.
It’s highly unusual, but something that came about as a result of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s desire to have every team play on a Thursday this season.
As a result, the Saints will go against the unbeaten Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday and see them again on Nov. 29, one week after Thanksgiving, in the Georgia Dome.
But the only focus is playing the Falcons, not when the games are.
“You really don’t give that a lot of thought,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Wednesday. “You’re going to play the hand you’re dealt. We’re preparing for a heck of a game this weekend.
“After that, it’s on to the next challenge. But I haven’t given it a lot of thought. If you’re playing well, I guess you like it. If you’re not playing well, then you don’t like it.”
The Saints have had the Falcons’ number for the past six seasons, winning 10 of 12 games played in the series since Sean Payton took over in 2006.
That rivals the unprecedented 10-game winning streak the Falcons put together against the Saints in their twice-yearly meetings from 1995-99.
Payton’s first game against the Falcons was a memorable one.
His team dominated from start to finish in winning 23-3 in the first game back in the Superdome, on Sept. 25, 2006, following Hurricane Katrina.
In their current 10-2 stretch, the Saints swept both games in 2006, ’07, ’09 and ’11.
Vitt said four players did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as the Saints got back to work following Monday’s night’s 28-13 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
RB Darren Sproles (hand), T Zach Strief (groin), DE Junior Galette (ankle) and WR Courtney Roby (shoulder) all did not practice. Sproles, who had surgery last week on a fractured left hand, could be sidelined for a second straight game Sunday.
The Falcons listed four players as not participating in practice and five more who were limited, according to the report turned in by coach Mike Smith.
Among those sitting out the practice were LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) and RB Jason Snelling (illness), while DT Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring), T Sam Baker (ankle), WR Harry Douglas (ankle), DT Peria Jerry (knee) and CB Asante Samuel (hip) were limited.
The Saints made an adjustment Wednesday to their practice squad for the first time since establishing the eight-man roster on Sept. 1.
Cornerback Nick Hixson was released and his spot was taken by cornerback A.J. Davis, an undrafted free agent who was with the team in training camp. Davis was hurt early in camp, however, and was waived/injured on Aug. 11.
The NFL said Wednesday that there will be no change to the schedule for games of Nov. 25, the second weekend that NBC can request to have a game flexed to primetime.
That means the Saints’ home game with the San Francisco 49ers will kick off as scheduled at 3:25 p.m. (Fox).