The rest of America doesn’t understand the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons rivalry and why it’s better than it has ever been.
The day after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, my friend at work and huge Patriots fan, seemed shocked when I said, “Boston wasn’t the happiest city in America last night.”
“Sure you guys hate Atlanta and watching them blow a 28-3 lead was fun, but it’s not like the Saints won a second Super Bowl last night.” my friend said, except it totally was the second best thing to the Saints actually winning a Super Bowl.
The Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 Super Bowl lead is the gift to Saints fans that will give and give and give and always be amazing unless the Falcons actually win a Super Bowl.
If the Saints can’t win the Super Bowl, the only thing equally as enjoyable to Saints fans was watching our most hated rival implode in the biggest football game on planet earth in a way that will shine bright for all eternity. It happened. We watched it in all in its crash and burn glory. Some people in New Orleans got so excited after seeing Atlanta disintegrate, they decided the occasion was worthy of a celebration that included fireworks. That’s how good Saints fans operate.
28-3 has basically become shorthand to identify who diehard Saints fans are. If you are wearing Saints gear, and as we pass on the street I say, “28-3” and you don’t chuckle and fist bump me, you probably aren’t a lunatic obsessed Saints fan.
The Falcons Super Bowl collapse for the ages and the Saints 2017 revival has taken this feud to an entirely different level. There’s still a decent chance The Saints and Falcons will meet in this year’s playoffs, which would be both amazing and terrifying.
Is it petty of Saints fans to continue to torment Falcons fans with 28-3 jokes, memes, gifs, and fabulous t-shirts? Of course it is, but what else are sports for than if not to twist the knife into your bitterest enemy? If a Saints fan created a coffee table book filled with nothing but 28-3 jokes and pictures I’d buy it and read it to my son every night at bedtime. If I can’t pass down my hatred of the Atlanta Falcons to the next generation of my family, then why even be a parent? That’s what makes fatherhood special.
I love the Saints-Falcons rivalry so much no matter if Saints are good or not, but when both teams are good the fun really starts. Beating the Falcons always brings us joy but when the game has real stakes? Now we’re cooking.
The 2017 Saints are on a magical ride with a fun young team, but Atlanta is still relevant with a young team of their own, so there’s nothing better than this game with playoffs and division titles on the line. If you asked me to list why I’m a Saints fan, “Watching the Falcons lose.” might be #1 on my list. It doesn’t get any better than these games in the regular season.
Saints Mood and Meditation Music: Oingo Boingo Dead Man's Party
The Saints get a chance to bury the Falcons playoff hopes and end Atlanta’s season in their brand new stadium with the broken roof. “Dead Man’s Party” feels so appropriate, plus, it’s from one of my favorite 1980’s movies “Back to School,” which had a great football joke from Rodney Dangerfield: “The football team at my high school, they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family.”
Let’s hope Thursday is a party celebrating the death of the Falcons season.
Last Week: 1-4
Atlanta (-3) vs. New Orleans: Can I start by saying how much I hate Thursday Night Football? Both the Saints and Falcons are all beat up because that’s what happens to football teams in December, and a huge divisional game is probably going to be poorly played and not a pleasant watch.
The Falcons offense isn’t nearly the killing machine it was in 2016 as Atlanta currently ranks eighth in yards-per-game and 14th in points. Stats like third down percentage (45 percent) say they should score more, but they haven’t been as healthy or as good along the offensive line.
The loss of Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco has caused Matt Ryan to regress to being Matt Ryan again. Ryan before 2016 was always a pretty good quarterback; he wasn’t great, wasn’t bad, but seemed to throw a lot of interceptions and throw them at critical times. That Matt Ryan has returned.
I want to pick the Saints so bad. Watching Falcons fans see their 2017 playoff dreams die at the hands of the team they hate the most would just add to the magic of 2017, except I just don’t see it.
The reason is I’m guessing the win against Carolina will give Sean Payton the chance to give Marshon Lattimore, Terron Armstead, and Marcus Williams another week of rest. If the Saints get to 11-5 they are almost assuredly winning the NFC South and even a win in Atlanta probably doesn’t get them a bye in the playoffs, so my gut tells me Payton rests key guys another week to prepare for the stretch run.
Also, Atlanta’s running backs and receivers are a terrible matchup for the improved Saints defense. I hope I’m wrong, but I see a desperate Falcons team beating a less desperate -- and still resting guys -- Saints team.
New England (-12) at Miami: If a Saints player any time between 2008 and 2011 did what Rob Gronkowski did to Tre'Davious White, during the Bounty Gate scandal we’d have seen that play 9 million times and Roger Goodell would have called for a lifetime ban for whichever Saint did it, and he’d have had a point.
Green Bay (-3.5) at Cleveland: People ask me which team I fear the most in the first round if the Saints host a playoff game? My answer is Aaron Rogers quarterbacking a 9-7 Packers team.
Philadelphia (-1.5) at Los Angeles: Saints beat Atlanta; pull for the Rams, Saints lose; pull for Philly. It’s fun to care so much about random games again isn’t it?
Minnesota (-1.5) at Carolina: I’m probably the only person who thinks the Vikings are the best team in the NFC right now, but that defense is NASTY, and even with Alvin Kamara becoming a superhero, they still scare me more than the Eagles.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.