Five things to know before today’s Falcons at Saints’ kickoff

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) enters the field during player introductions for pre-game festivities before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) enters the field during player introductions for pre-game festivities before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Credit: Bill Feig

Credit: Bill Feig

Here are five things to know before today’s 1 p.m. kickoff between the Falcons and the Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome:

1. Choke sign rematch. Saints coach Sean Payton apologized for giving Falcons running back Devonta Freeman the choke sign in the last meeting. However, the Falcons haven't forgotten about Payton's lapse in judgment. The Falcons won the previous meeting 20-17 on Dec. 7 in Atlanta. Saints Hate is running high for the 97th meeting between the South's original NFL rivals.

2. Playoffs on the line. If the Falcons win they will earn a playoff berth. If the Saints win and Carolina losses to Tampa Bay, they will earn the NFC South title and a playoff berth. 

3. Injury report. The Falcons will welcome back running back Tevin Coleman (concussion). Guard Andy Levitre (left triceps injury) is officially questionable for the game, but is expected to play. Julio Jones suffered an ankle and a thumb injury, but will play. Saints --  Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas was added to the injury report with a hamstring injury on Saturday and is now questionable to play against the Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

In the previous meeting, Thomas was targeted 14 times and caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 20-17 victory on Dec. 7.

4. Falcons defense stood up. The Falcons held the high-flying Saints to season lows in total yards (306), points (17) and rushing yards (50) in the last meeting. This is the rematch with the league's No. 1 offense. The Saints lead the league in total offense at 401.5 yards per game. The Falcons' defense gives up 323.6 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the league. Middle linebacker Deion Jones had a game-saving interception in the endzone with 1:25 play to secure the last win. The coaches credited him with 17 tackles in that game.

5. Running backs on parade. The Saints are powered by running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, who have combined for 2,753 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns. The Falcons running backs, Freeman and Coleman, have combined for 1,856 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns.  Here are three key matchups for the game. 

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