PFF Preview: Saints @ Falcons, Week 1
The 2014 season begins with a division rivalry as the New Orleans Saints travel to face the Atlanta Falcons.
Drew Brees will look to build on his success in New Orleans where he has not finished a regular season with a grade below +18.0 since we began the grading process in 2007. In 2013, Brees lead the Saints to the third-best rating in the NFL on the offensive side of the ball with a +129.8. They face a division rival who is hungry to rebound after a disappointing 2013 season.
The Falcons were plagued by injuries in 2013. Wide receiver Roddy White struggled with lingering injuries throughout the season and Julio Jones was lost for the year in Week 5. If those two can return to their 2012 form — where White finished the season with a +18.4 and Jones finished with a +9.0 — the offense should take some pressure off the defense that had few bright spots in 2013.
Here are three more notable numbers for each side:
Matt Ryan – Ryan has been a leader for the Falcons’ offense since coming into the league in 2008. He has finished with a positive grade every year and has been below +13.0 only once.
Joe Hawley – The Falcons’ center missed some time in 2013, but was still able to finish the season with a +4.9 run blocking grade.
Julio Jones – An injury ended Jones’ 2013 season in which he had accumulated a +6.3 overall grade through only five games, which was up from his +1.8 through the first five games of 2012.
New Orleans Saints
Jarius Byrd – Byrd showed his ability in coverage last year by finishing behind only three players in interceptions and earning a +9.5 grade in pass coverage even though he missed the first five games of the year.
Cameron Jordan – The Saints’ defensive end finished the 2013 season as the league leader in QB Hurries with 57 and finished behind only J.J. Watt in the pass rushing category with a grade of +35.3.
Zach Strief – Strief graded out as the second-best offensive tackle in the league and the best right tackle in pass blocking in 2013 with a final grade of +17.1.