5 things to know about Falcons-Saints matchup

The Falcons (4-6) are on the outer fringes of the NFC playoff race and are in a must-win situation against the streaking Saints (9-1) at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons are trying to rebound from a loss to Dallas at the buzzer, while the Saints have won nine in a row after a season-opening loss.

» More: Falcons heavy underdogs against Saints

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 on Sept. 23. 

Here are five stats that set up the matchup:

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1. Jones on a roll. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past three games. 

According to Next Gen Stats, Jones clocked 20.56 mph on his 34-yard touchdown catch against the Cowboys, marking the fastest ballcarrier for the Falcons that afternoon.

Jones caught six passes for 118 yards, which was his 46th career 100-yard receiving game. He moved past Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss (45) for most 100-yard receiving games in first eight seasons.

2. Beasley back. 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.

» Mark Bradley: Fading Falcons surely out of playoffs

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. New cornerback. 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. 

5. Smith and Thomas. With the Eagles playing to stop wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints threw 13 passes to rookie Tre’Quan Smith. He caught 10 passes for 157 yards, both career highs, and scored a touchdown. 

Before the outburst against the Eagles, Smith, a third-round pick from the University of Central Florida, had 12 catches for 214 yards. The Saints hope that he can stabilize their No. 2 wide receiver slot.

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