The New Orleans Saints clinched a playoff berth after defeating the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football last night, 17-14. The Falcons, who headed into last night’s game having clinched the NFC South title, gave up a Drew Brees TD pass to Jimmy Graham in the last four minutes of the game as the Saints avenged their loss against Atlanta in Week 3.
“It feels good,” Brees said. “You just want to punch your ticket to the big show, and we’ve done that. Obviously, Carolina needs to beat Atlanta next week so we can get that one seed.”
“We don’t want to feel this way the rest of the season,” said Matt Ryan, who lost at home for only the second time as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. “We’re going to work hard to make sure we don’t.”
Whereas many championship teams experience some kind of “hangover” or dropoff in performance in their subsequent seasons, the Saints are 8-2 in games decided by 10 points or less, and their only loss by 10 points or more was their bizarre Week 7 outing against Cleveland. In this age of NFL “parity,” the Saints have positioned themselves nicely to repeat as NFC champs. The Buffalo Bills are ready to see a little bit more of that parity. I bet they are.
The Falcons, meanwhile, have managed wins against St. Louis, Baltimore and Green Bay, and that’s about it as far as potential playoff teams go. Both Atlanta and New Orleans have benefited from favorable scheduling this season. Atlanta ranks 17th in total defense, and their chances of making that playoff run remain uncertain. They’ll have a first round bye, which is kinda pointless since Christmas has already happened.