Falcons coach preparing team for key NFC South matchup against the Saints Thursday in New Orleans.

Cover 9@9: Saints are favored to play in Atlanta’s Super Bowl 

1. Southern Hospitality. Hey, I like Maroon 5.

I mean, I don’t have any of their 8-track tapes in the batmobile, but I’ve seen videos of Adam Levine and his crew. I really liked the wedding crashing video.

But something more sinister is developing during the run-up to Atlanta hosting Super Bowl LIII.  

» More: Thousands sign petition to stop Maroon 5 from playing Super Bowl

Despite the Rams’ win over the Chiefs in that crazy high-scoring game the set back “real” football light years, the New Orleans Saints are still the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Here are the latest odds from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The Saints winning the NFC could provide the Falcons with a dilemma. Not only could the Saints play in Super Bowl LIII in the Falcons’ stadium, but they could be assigned to use their practice facilities.

Almost certainly, the Falcons would block that move and have the AFC team assigned to Flowery Branch.  

The two Super Bowl teams will workout at Georgia Tech and the Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch. It would have made more sense to have one team at Georgia State and another at Tech.

But Tech has an indoor facility and Georgia State does not. 

So, the only other options, to make sure the teams had matching facilities, was Athens or Flowery Branch. 

Maybe former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White can be the Saints’ ambassador and show them around the city, if they reach Super Bowl LIII.

» Follow: AJC’s continuing coverage of Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta

“He hated playing New Orleans,” wide receiver Julio Jones said. “He hated the Saints. He was always talking about them. Roddy was crazy.”

The Falcons, who play the Saints at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, left for New Orleans after practice Tuesday. 

The Falcons hope to slow the Saints’ march to the playoffs and maybe start a turnaround of their own. 

While Matt Ryan dismissed coach Dan Quinn’s saying that “field goals” weren’t going to cut it against the Saints, Jones embraced the philosophy. 

“Yeah, every time we get the ball it’s critical,” Jones said. “They have the ball 37 minutes or so, something like that, they can possess the ball very well. They get first downs, they keep drives going, things like that.

“They know we can score, too. What teams can do, especially the Saints, they’ll try to keep us on the sideline for a duration, for long periods of time and things like that. When we get the ball we’ve got to score points.”

Maybe the Falcons can slow down the Saints and clear the path for the Rams or something potential tenant and Super Bowl team.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton makes the "choke" sign during a game with the Atlanta Falcons.
Photo: NBC Sports and NFL Network

2. Beasley’s sack attack: In the previous meeting, Vic Beasley had the Falcons’ lone sack. The team had only two quarterback hits on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. 

Beasley had two sacks against the Cowboys. 

Beasley’s first sack against Dallas marked the Falcons’ 12th sack of the season that has been registered on a third-down play.

The last time the four-year veteran had two or more sacks was Dec. 12, 2016 against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons will need to put forth a better pass rush to slow and attack the Saints’ offense.

3. Oluokun vs. Ingram: The Falcons must do a better job against the run after giving up 176 yards to Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and 122 yards to Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott.

Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun led the Falcons with a career-high 10 tackles against the Cowboys. Oluokun, who played at Yale, is the Falcons third-leading tackler with 50.

4. One bad Apple: The Saints’ defense, which added cornerback Eli Apple in a trade with the Giants since the last meeting, is playing well. In the 48-7 rout of the Eagles on Sunday, the Saints held the Eagles to 196 yards. 

Apple played against the Falcons earlier this season when he was with the New York Giants. 

He had five tackles and a fumble recovery in the Falcons’ 23-20 win over the Giants on Oct. 22.

“We watched him a little bit today,” Julio Jones said. “He’s playing good, he’s playing better.”

5. Series history: This will be the 99th regular-season meeting between the Falcons and the Saints. The Falcons lead the series 51-47. The Saints won the previous meeting this season 43-37 in overtime Sept. 23. 

6. Longshot Falcons: If the Falcons pull off the upset against the Saints, they will prove a lot of people wrong - including most of the NFL and Vegas oddsmakers.

The Falcons are 13-point underdogs in the Thanksgiving night matchup against the Saints (9-1), who have won nine consecutive and have averaged 45 points in their past three games.

But the Falcons won in their last prime-time game in New Orleans (45-32 on Monday Night football in 2016) and have won two of their last four games in the Big Easy.

7. Where to watch, listen or live stream: Cris Collinsworth is the color analyst for the game. He’s my favorite. 

8. Film review: Check out the the grades, after reviewing the film on gamepass.nfl.com, for the Falcons after their gut-wrenching 22-19 loss to the Cowboys at the buzzer Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

9. Depth chart: Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones, a native of New Orleans, didn’t sound like he was gearing up to play when we spoke to him briefly in the locker room Monday.

He said, “if I play.” 


WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall 

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo

LG 71 Wes Schweitzer 

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RG 63 Ben Garland 

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 69 Zane Beadles, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub 

RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz 


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 90 Derrick Shelby, 56 Steven Means

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 52 Bruce Irvin

WLB 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael 

MLB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell 

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel

FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 35 Keith Tandy

SS 29 Jordan Richards, 41 Sharrod Neasman 


K 3 Matt Bryant, 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher 

P 5 Matt Bosher 

KR 14 Justin Hardy,18 Calvin Ridley

PR 14 Justin Hardy,17 Marvin Hall

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.