The Falcons and Saints are in entirely different phases of roster construction. Atlanta immersed itself in mountains of dead money to kick off the inevitable rebuilding it still faced. The Falcons roster is deficient in many areas. On the other hand, New Orleans is competing with playoff expectations. The Saints’ front office has always worked on the salary cap so as to build a candidate year after year. The big difference between these two lists is in the expectations, but let’s see how the teams match up on paper.
The Falcons are entering a new era without Matt Ryan at the helm, replacing him with Marcus Mariota. Jameis Winston and Mariota have been linked for much of their careers after being the top two quarterback prospects selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. At this point, Winston likely has the advantage as he was recently holder, but not many. Mariota should prove to be a productive caller in attacking Arthur Smith.
Advantage: Saints (slightly)
The Falcons re-signed Cordarrelle Patterson while adding Damien Williams and Tyler Allgeier through free agency and the draft. The Saints have one of the most impressive all-round backs in football in Alvin Kamara. Despite Patterson’s breakout campaign last season, Kamara is still the better player.
I didn’t want to separate receivers and tight ends because that’s not how football works. Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Bryan Edwards and Cordarrelle Patterson will be Atlanta’s top targets this season. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara will lead the way in New Orleans. Pitts is the best receiver here, and it’s not particularly close. Thomas was certainly one of the best receivers in the league a few years ago, but he has just suffered a serious injury. Saints fans would be wise to temper expectations upon his return.
Still, Pitts being the best of this group doesn’t necessarily give the Falcons the edge. Landry is better than Edwards and Kamara is the best receiver in football. Olave and London are rookies, which should be considered a washout at this point. The Falcons will have the best receiving target on the field, but the Saints will have the next three best. For argument’s sake, though, I’ll refer to this as a push.
This one doesn’t need to be deliberate. The Falcons offensive line is a mess; the only reliable players are Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews. There are a lot of unknowns about Elijah Wilkinson and Drew Dalman; combine that with Kaleb McGary’s inconsistencies, and the Saints have the edge again. Even though New Orleans lost Terron Armstead this offseason, the Saints offensive line is still one of the best units in the league.
This, again, is not necessarily close. At almost every position, the Saints’ defense is superior to the Falcons. Cam Jordan, Shy Tuttle, David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport can rival all of football’s top four. Grady Jarrett is just as threatening as Jordan, but the combination of Ta’Quon Graham, Lorenzo Carter and Ade Ogundeji doesn’t come close to other defenders.
Demario Davis is one of the best off-ball linebackers in football. Both teams’ linebacking cores aren’t great. Davis is the best, Rashaan Evans follows, and then the rest is shitty shooting.
This one is actually quite close, contrary to the opinion of many Saints fans. AJ Terrell and Marshon Lattimore are two of the best corners in the game; both fanbases think their player is better. However, Paulson Adebo is no match for Casey Hayward. When it comes to cornerback tandems, few can match what Atlanta has in Terrell and Hayward. The Falcons have the advantage at the corner, but the same cannot be said when it comes to safety.
The Saints came out and signed Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye, forming one of the best safety tandems in football. They’re interchangeable in almost every facet, and the Falcons have two hugely inexperienced safeties in Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins. This one isn’t even close; the Saints have the advantage.
Cornerback Advantage: Falcons
Security Advantage: Saints
Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire