METAIRIE, La. Matt Ryan is experienced enough to know that he and his Falcons teammates are about to walk into a lion's den on Sunday, when the Saints host Atlanta in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the 2013 curtain raiser for both teams.
Ryan has traveled south to New Orleans five times. Four times he has gone back to the Peach State a loser. And in each of those times, he faced more than the 11 players on the field for New Orleans.
'It's definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL,' Ryan said. 'And we know that. I've been down there five times and I've played down there five times and I know every time it's loud and it's hostile.'
Ryan has faced some of the biggest crowds the Superdome has to offer the past five seasons. Since 2008, New Orleans has averaged 71,562 fans for home games. And in 2012, New Orleans turned out for the Atlanta game, the Superdome hosting its second-largest home crowd since the building opened in 1975.
Then again, home or away, Ryan has been slightly worse than his career average against the Saints. The player who nearly led the Falcons to the Super Bowl a season ago has but an 88.9 QB rating against New Orleans, completing just 60.12 percent of his passes. He has a career rating of 90.9 and completion percentage of 62.7.
The scenario just becomes harder for him in New Orleans and the venue is part of the problem. So, for the past month, Falcons coach Mike Smith has tried to prepare.
'We play in a lot of loud venues the Superdome there in New Orleans is one of the loudest,' Smith said.
Since the middle of training camp, he has piped in crowd noise at their Flowery Branch practice facility.
Still, the Falcons get the task of facing the Saints in Sean Payton's first regular season game back as coach after sitting out a year with a suspension. It also won't help Atlanta than New Orleans went 7-9 in 2012; fans will be eager to let loose a year's worth of frustration.
'Obviously it's a place we're very familiar with, a team we're very familiar with (and) we know it's going to be a tough challenge down there,' Ryan said. 'It always is. They're always a well-coached, tough, physical football team. We're going to have to handle the environment when we get down there.'