1:00 PM ET, November 26, 2006
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
New Orleans (6-4) at Atlanta (5-5) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The 2006 season is starting to look eerily familiar to last season for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons look to snap a three-game losing streak Sunday when they face the New Orleans Saints in a critical NFC South matchup.
After a surprising 6-2 start, the Saints are trying to avoid their third straight loss.
New Orleans is tied with Carolina for first place while Atlanta is just a game back. However, the Falcons and Saints both are struggling.
Last season, the Falcons got out to a 6-2 record at the midway point of the season. However, they lost six of their last eight games en route to missing the playoffs.
The Falcons won five of their first seven games this season but have not won since, enduring key injuries along the way. Patrick Kerney is out for the season, fellow defensive end John Abraham has missed the last four games with an abdominal injury and cornerback Jason Webster is out for at least another month with a groin injury.
Electrifying quarterback Michael Vick also is struggling. After throwing for seven touchdowns in back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Vick has three TDs and four interceptions in the last three games.
Vick completed just 11-of-21 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's 24-10 loss at Baltimore.
The struggles for the Saints also have to do with their defense, which has allowed 69 points in their last two games. Last Sunday, the Saints suffered a 31-16 loss to Cincinnati.
Drew Brees continued to light things up offensively against the Bengals, throwing for 510 yards - the sixth-highest total in NFL history - and two touchowns with three interceptions.
Brees leads the league with 3,114 passing yards to go along with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
But Brees could be without one of his main targets this week after rookie Marques Colston suffered a sprained left ankle against the Bengals. The seventh-round pick out of Hofstra has 54 catches for 869 yards and seven touchdowns.
"We'll treat it and see how much pressure he can put on it," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It's just a matter of how much weight it can support and how quickly he can come back off of it. Each day we'll get an idea maybe a little bit of his progress."
In their emotional return to the site that was one of the focal points of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Saints posted an emotional 23-3 victory over the Falcons on September 25.
Following a pregame ceremony, the Saints sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy just 90 seconds into the game when Steve Gleason blocked a punt and Curtis Deloatch recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Defensively, the Saints frustrated Vick, who completed just 12-of-31 passes for 137 yards and was sacked five times. Warrick Dunn also was limited to 44 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
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Gut-check time for both teams
This NFC South showdown pits two teams that are desperately trying to get their seasons back on track. However, if Atlanta has any hope of staying competitive and in the race, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will need to rediscover his offense that has disappeared during the team's three-game losing streak. Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs set the blueprint on how to slow down this high-powered offense in Week 3 with his assignment football and attacking schemes.
The Saints have got to find a way to eliminate turnovers. Head coach Sean Payton will continue to spread the field and exploit mismatches in the Falcons' secondary. Atlanta defensive coordinator Ed Donatell will continue to rely on his makeshift units to shut down the Saints' rushing attack, while creating pressure on QB Drew Brees. Special teams could have major role in the outcome.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.9||21.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NO|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NO|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Series tied 6-6|
|Sep 25, 2006||NO 23, ATL 3|
|Dec 12, 2005||NO 17, @ATL 36|
|Oct 16, 2005||NO 31, ATL 34|
|Dec 26, 2004||NO 26, ATL 13|
|Nov 28, 2004||NO 21, @ATL 24|
|Nov 16, 2003||NO 23, ATL 20|
|Oct 19, 2003||NO 45, @ATL 17|
|Nov 17, 2002||NO 17, @ATL 24|
|Oct 27, 2002||NO 35, ATL 37|
|Dec 9, 2001||NO 28, @ATL 10|
|Oct 21, 2001||NO 13, ATL 20|