Buccaneers Falcons Football

Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones (45) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Chris O'Meara

WHEN: 7:25 p.m.

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

TV: NBC, NFL Network

RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge; en español: WGSO-AM, 990; WVDU-FM, 97.9

RECORDS: New Orleans 9-3; Atlanta 7-5

COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 11th season, 103-69; Falcons, Dan Quinn, third season, 24-15


LAST WEEK: Atlanta's three-game winning streak ran into a buzz saw on Sunday. Facing off against Minnesota's brilliant defense, the Falcons offense fell silent and Atlanta dropped a 14-9 decision to fall two games behind the Saints in the NFC South.

OFFENSE: Atlanta's offense is still packed with talent, but the Falcons have been a far cry from the juggernaut that rolled through the NFC last season. Atlanta ranks eighth in total offense (365.2 yards per game) and 14th in scoring offense (22.8 points per game), but the Falcons have posted more than 400 yards just twice, against Detroit and Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan, the defending NFL MVP, struggled with turnovers early in the season, but he's settled down, tossing only two in the past seven games. Overall, Ryan has been a lot like the rest of the Falcons offense: Efficient, but not explosive. Ryan has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 3,057 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His top target, Julio Jones, remains as dangerous as ever, with 68 catches for 1,063 yards, but he can be boom or bust. Two weeks ago, he rolled up 253 yards against the Buccaneers, but Minnesota held him to just 24 yards on two catches. Aside from Jones, the rest of Ryan's receivers have been possession types this season. Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper mostly work underneath, but Taylor Gabriel is a big-play threat as a No. 3 receiver. Atlanta's two-headed rushing attack can still move the chains. Devonta Freeman (589 yards) and Tevin Coleman (561 yards) haven't been as devastating as the Saints' brilliant duo of backs, but the Falcons still rank 11th in rushing at 115.6 yards per game. Up front, Atlanta has been good, particularly at protecting Ryan. The Falcons have allowed just 16 sacks, good for fifth in the NFL.

DEFENSE: All of the young talent the Falcons have added on defense is starting to pay off. Atlanta ranks eighth in the NFL in total defense, allowing just 321 yards per game, and seventh against the pass, and the performance has been consistent. Only New England has topped 400 yards of offense against Atlanta this season. The pass rush, Atlanta's weakness a year ago outside of Vic Beasley, has been solid, producing 32 sacks, tied for 10th in the NFL. Adrian Clayborn leads the Falcons with eight sacks, but six of those came in an aberration against backup Dallas tackle Chaz Green; the real pressure players are Beasley (four sacks in an injury-plagued season), rookie Takkarist McKinley (five sacks) and Brooks Reed (four sacks) off the edge. Behind those players, Atlanta has incredible speed and ferocity in the back seven. Former LSU star Deion Jones leads the Falcons with 96 tackles, strong safety Keanu Neal has 91 and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell has 74 tackles and two sacks. As solid as the Falcons defense has been, Atlanta does have some weaknesses; the Falcons have only made three interceptions all season, and Atlanta ranks 18th in the NFL against the run, allowing 4.3 yards per carry. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: New Orleans has been susceptible to talented return men this season, but Andre Roberts has been average for Atlanta. Kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher are solid if not spectacular. 

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.