Leav­ing church early

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

Fi­nally. The Rock has come back — I mean foot­ball has come back to my Sun­day af­ter­noon pro­gram­ming (plus Sun­day evening/night and Mon­day night).

Thurs­day’s Seat­tle/Green Bay matchup brought us our first NFL ac­tion since early Fe­bru­ary. While it wasn’t ac­tu­ally a spec­tac­u­lar game, it was good to watch the pros go at for real after such a long drought. (Quick note: Seat­tle looks like a team that can re­peat, but the sea­son is young and long).

Now, as we are in the metro-At­lanta area, I know Fal­cons fans are anx­ious to see what the Fal­cons will do against their most hated ri­val, the New Or­leans Saints. Be­fore you run into a wall of Rise Up fan­dom that re­solves you of all logic, steadily pump the brakes.

It’s rea­son­able to ex­pect the Fal­cons to get a win against the Saints, Julio Jones is back, the Fal­cons made sig­nif­i­cant changes to the of­fen­sive line (which was a huge weak­ness last sea­son) and the run­ning game has po­ten­tial with Stephen Jack­son, Davonta Free­man and Jac­quizz Rodgers. The loss of Sam Baker will hurt some, as he and Jake Matthews, who


will move from right to left tackle, would have given Matt Ryan some more time on the left and right sides of the line.

It’s im­por­tant to note that the Saints are one of the best teams in the league, and they made a few good ac­qui­si­tions to sure up that Rob Ryan-lead de­fense that had al­ready made ex­cel­lent strides last sea­son. Then there’s that guy, Drew Brees (I think that’s his name). He’s an OK quar­ter­back. Plus, Jimmy Gra­ham is no pushover. He’ll look to dunk all over the Fal­cons’ goal post to­day.

The At­lanta de­fense’s per­for­mance will be the ques­tion. The Fal­cons have a solid sec­ondary, es­pe­cially at cor­ner­back and, even with the loss of Sean Wither­spoon, a de­cent core of lineback­ers. At­lanta also has a pair of good de­fen­sive tack­les, but the weak­est as­pect of that de­fense is the de­fen­sive end po­si­tion. The Fal­cons are go­ing to have prob­lems cre­at­ing pres­sure on the quar­ter­back, and if you give Drew Brees time to do Drew Brees things then, well, you’ll lose, like Berk­mar lost to New­ton (48-21).

The Fal­cons are go­ing to have to be a team that outscores its op­po­nents and forces/gets turnovers when the op­por­tu­nity arises. Scor­ing points shouldn’t be that hard to come by, see­ing as how their wide re­ceivers are some of the best in the league. A four-re­ceiver spread that in­cludes a healthy Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Dou­glas and Devin Hester. With that spread at­tack, the loss of Tony Gon­za­lez shouldn’t be felt much at all.

With that said, this is a marathon not a sprint. If you fall to New Or­leans Sun­day af­ter­noon, the Fal­cons will be a much bet­ter team when they meet again in week 16, and that game will likely have play­off im­pli­ca­tions for the vic­tor.

Whether they lose or not, although you’ll be pissed if they lose, some things to look at are: the per­for­mance of the of­fen­sive line, the pass rush and how healthy are Julio and Stephen Jack­son?

Bet on it: game picks for around the league.

At­lanta vs. New Or­leans: Saints win. Don’t fret, you’ll get ‘em week 16.

Vik­ings vs. Rams: Rams win. Matt Cas­sel is start­ing. Do you think Min­nesota has a chance against that Rams’ de­fense? Me, ei­ther.

Browns vs. Steel­ers: Steel­ers win. No Manziel, no Josh Gor­don, no prob­lem for Pitts­burgh.

Jaguars vs. Ea­gles: Ea­gles win. Lesean McCoy. That’s all.

Raiders vs. Jets: J.E.T.S win by de­fault. This would be a great game 30 years ago.

Ben­gals vs. Ravens: Ravens win. Not gonna lie, I’m bi­ased on this one, go Ravens.

Bills vs. Bears: Bears. Just don’t get hurt, OK Jay?

Red­skins vs. Tex­ans: Red-Wash­ing­ton wins. You thought I was gonna say it, huh?

Titans vs. Chiefs: UP­SET pick, Titans win. Chiefs have too many losses on both sides of the ball.

Pa­tri­ots vs. Dol­phins: Pats win. Dol­phins steadily im­prov­ing, still not enough for that revamped Pats’ de­fense.

Pan­thers vs. Buc­ca­neers: Bucs win. Even if Cam New­ton had some­one to throw to, the Bucs de­fense wouldn’t al­low it.

49ers vs. Cow­boys: Cow­boys with the up­set win. Ahhh, now this would’ve been epic 30 years ago. This time it’s just gonna be a good game that gives Cow­boys fans hope, which they’ll lose come De­cem­ber.

Colts vs. Bron­cos: Pey­ton gets re­venge from last sea­son. Won’t put up seven touch­downs like he did in the opener last year, though.

Gi­ants vs. Lions: Lions win. Poor Eli.

Charg­ers vs. Car­di­nals: Car­di­nals win. Should be a good game, but Philip Rivers will find a way to lose.

Sha­keem Hol­loway is the sports ed­i­tor at The News. You can reach him at 770-728-1413 or shol­loway@cov­news.com.



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