The New Orleans Saints (3-5) will battle their NFC South rival, the undefeated Atlanta Falcons (8-0), at noon Sunday for the first time this season. Both New Orleans and Atlanta are coming off primetime wins in Week 9.
The Saints earned their most impressive victory in the 2012 season and third in four games as they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-13, on Monday Night Football at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last Monday.
The win pushed the Saints' winning streak in November games to 12.
Quarterback Drew Brees completed 21 of 27 passes for 239 yards and two scores in the win.
The Saints had their strongest performance of the season on the ground as RBs Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet combined for 140 yards on 25 carries (5.6 average). Ivory led the way with 48 yards on 10 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown.
The Saints defense totaled a season-high seven sacks including three by second-year defensive end Cameron Jordan. Safety Malcolm Jenkins led the team with 13 tackles (seven solo) and defensive back Patrick Robinson had the play of the game when he intercepted Michael Vick and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but Monday's win was encouraging," said Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt. "I was proud of our football team for improving on certain things but we still have a long way to go."
The Falcons knocked off the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football by a 19-13 mark. Falcons running back Michael Turner had 20 carries for 102 yards and Matt Ryan completed 24 of 34 passes for 342 yards to lead the Falcons to the victory.
The Falcons lead the all-time series with the Saints by a 45-40 margin, but the black and gold have won 10 of the previous 12 contests, including the last three. In the first meeting last season, the Saints and Falcons went to overtime at the Georgia Dome when kicker John Kasay booted a 26-yard field goal to give the Saints a 26-23 victory.
Brees threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the game; 113 of those yards went to wide receiver Marques Colston who hauled in eight receptions – all for first downs.
The Saints clinched the NFC South title in the second 2011 meeting with an impressive 45-16 win on Monday Night Football at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees broke the NFL's single-season record for most passing yards with 5,087, surpassing a record held for 27 years by Dan Marino (5,084.)
"One thing you know about facing the Falcons is it's almost always going to be a four-quarter game," said Brees. "Two out of the last four have been overtime games. We know how intense these games can be and how important it always is."
Probably no player on either team understands the Saints-Falcons rivalry better than first-year Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton.
Before coming to New Orleans, Lofton played four seasons in Atlanta. He started 63 of the 64 games that he appeared in for the Falcons, totaling 577 tackles (387 solo), four sacks, three interceptions, seven forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 15 pass defenses.
"Being in Atlanta, I hated (the Saints)," said Lofton. "That's the rivalry – you hate each other. Once I got here and got to hang out with Coach (Sean) Payton, Mickey (Loomis), Joe (Vitt) and (Steve) Spagnuolo, it felt right. It felt like family." At the midway point of the season, Lofton leads the Saints in tackles with 76 (54 solo). Additionally, Lofton has three pass defenses, a fumble recovery and a sack (12-yard loss).
Through eight games, Brees leads the NFL in passing yards (2,549) and is second in touchdowns (22). Colston has been Brees' top target this season with 44 receptions for 626 yards and six touchdowns. On special teams, Thomas Morstead continues to lead the NFL in net punting average at 45.0. The four-year veteran has booted 36 kicks for 1,843 yards this season, including 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Following Sunday's contest, the Saints will travel to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, November 18, at 3:05 p.m. CT.