For what is likely the very first time in the entire 51-year history of the arch-rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, both teams enter into the upcoming season ahead as top-rated Super Bowl contenders — potentially making the two games that will be played between them later this year in 2018, become one of the epic seasons EVER in rivalry history when looked back upon.
While the storied history between the two teams have had years when both teams had winning seasons and both made the Playoffs together in the same year, they’ve probably never both been this good, with the Saints ranked #5 in the latest ESPN “Power Rankings” and the Falcons not all that far behind at #7.
You have to go back to the 2010 NFL season — the year after the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 — which is the last time that these two teams both were this good as they are now.
That year, the Saints went (11-5) and earned a Wild Card Playoff berth before being upset in the Playoffs at Seattle, in the infamous “Beast Quake” game where former Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch ran over the Saints defense. Meanwhile in that same season, the Falcons were (13-3) and won the NFC South Division along with the #1 Playoff seed in the NFC, before they were eliminated by eventual champion Green Bay in the Divisional Playoffs.
The roles were a bit reversed last season, as they split the season series before both teams eventually made the NFC Playoffs; with New Orleans taking the NFC South Division crown at (11-5), while the Falcons earned a Wild Card berth at (10-6).
But there isn’t any doubt it: both teams return with loaded rosters this year that makes them both prime Super Bowl contenders and each a threat to make it all the way to the Big Game next February, where the Falcons hope they’ll end up hosting Super Bowl LIII inside of their brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Falcons are just a year and a half removed from losing Super Bowl LI to the Patriots, but their roster is still loaded up with talent, so much so that the experts at ESPN Insider and Pro Football Focus believe that Atlanta has the 2nd-best roster in the entire NFL heading into the 2018 season.
Arguably right in the middle of their greatest era as a franchise, the Falcons (remarkably) are the only NFC team to make the playoffs for the past two straight seasons in 2016 and 2017, and no doubt this upcoming season will be hoping to be the only team to do it three straight times in that span.
Armed with what many analysts have called the most talented offensive roster in football, the Falcons would certainly relish the opportunity to win Super Bowl LIII themselves, since doing so would make then the first team in NFL history to achieve the feat in their own home stadium.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters recently that in order to do that however, Atlanta will be mixing things up a bit “style” wise, on offense.
“The style should feel similar but there’ll definitely be some wrinkles”.
“Style meaning the way we want to run the ball, the way we want to come off the ball. At the end of it, can we execute better? They’ll be some new wrinkles for sure. We’re not doing triple option or anything with Matt Ryan. But there will definitely be some new parts of the offense this year. How do we feature the running backs, how do we feature the guys in different ways?”
Meanwhile, the Saints also return a “stacked roster” loaded with talent on both sides of the ball; thanks to back-to-back “homerun” draft classes in 2016 and 2017 that has allowed New Orleans to become a Top 5 contender very quickly, after 3 consecutive (7-9) losing seasons from 2014 through 2016.
The Saints will be coming into this 2018 season with high hopes, after narrowly just missing out at making it to the NFC Championship Game. They’re well aware of the opportunity to have a very special season in 2018, a sentiment echoed recently by QB Drew Brees at the team’s OTA’s a few weeks ago.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 24, 2018
(Reporter’s question:) Are you guys more excited to come in after how last season ended?
Brees: “Yes, listen you’re always excited but I think we feel like we’ve got the makings of what could be. And so now this is the hey you’re starting back at square one and you just got to build this thing and you don’t start where you left off.”
“Yes, we feel like we’ve got the pieces in place — but we also understand this is a game of inches and you have got to set the tone now for a successful season. You have to build the foundation now.”
“You have got to develop good habits now and so we understand there’s still so much work ahead of us and there’s a sense of urgency each and every day to improve and get better and just to stay stay ahead.”
The Falcons currently hold a (52–46) lead in the all-time series pairing the long-time NFC South foes, and these two NFC “powerhouses” will face off twice in 2018:
In Atlanta on September 23rd in Week #3; and then of course: what likely will be the “Game of the Year” for both teams, when they square off on Thanksgiving Night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 22nd.
And while the 2018 NFC South Division title could very likely be at on the line that night, make no mistake about it: the winner of that game in front of a nation-wide audience watching on at home; will almost instantaneously be declared Super Bowl LIII favorites.
It’s always very intense when ever the Saints and Falcons square off, but this particular game could easily have Playoff implications because it’s later on near the end of the season (Week #12) as well.
So with all of that in mind, Saints fans should be preparing themselves for a wild ride in the upcoming season ahead.