There's only one game airing live on Fox Sports this week. Check it out in this preview.
Before I get into this week’s preview I’d like to have a little vent if I may. First and foremost I have to point out I am not privy to the contractual agreement between Fox Sports Australia and the NFL, but I find it unbelievable that Fox Sports is showing only one live NFL game this week.
How is this possible? It is the opening week of one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and rather than show another live game they run a replay of the final round of the Chiquita Golf Classic and the Tour of Alberta cycling. Really?
Anyway let’s focus on the game they are showing, and boy is it a cracker.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
When and where:
Monday 9th September, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
LIVE Fox Sports (via Foxtel) 3:00am
What a way to kick off the new pay TV NFL season. Two of the league’s highest powered offences come head to head in what could be the highest scoring game of the year. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this contest will be finally getting some answers to the questions that have lingered all off-season:
What impact will Sean Payton’s return have?
The 2012-2013 season was riddled with distractions and problems for the Saints. They were without several players, their coach and spiritual leader Sean Payton was suspended for the year and the team as a whole appeared to struggle for unity all year. Payton will be back on the Saint’s sideline after serving his one year suspension for the ‘Bountygate’ scandal and with him comes a sense of anticipation from Saints fans that their team can once again challenge for the title under Payton’s guidance after finishing a disappointing 7-9 last season.
Can the Saints defence improve?
There’s no other way to say it, the New Orleans defence was terrible last year. It ranked last in total defence giving up just over 7,000 total yards and 454 points. Yes there were excuses for this performance but when it comes down to it that is simply not good enough and left too much for their offence to do. The Saints are hoping new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can bring a new found aggressiveness to their play and turn around what was a forgettable season.
Is Steven Jackson the answer for the Falcons in the backfield?
There is no doubting the Falcon’s passing attack is one of the best in the league. What they have been missing is a strong running game to help ease the reliance on Matt Ryan. Steven Jackson was brought in this off season and while many would argue that Jackson has never really been an elite running back, there is no doubting his talents. He is a hard runner and, unlike his predecessor Michael Turner, has good hands coming out of the backfield. That should allow for more variety in the Falcon’s play calling and a more balanced attack.
Can Matt Ryan live up to that contract?
This offseason Matt Ryan received a five year $103.75 million contract extension making him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. That’s a lot of money for a guy with one playoff win under his belt and Falcons management and the fans alike will be expecting big things from Ryan this year. Ryan will no doubt have his doubters and there could be no better way to silence them than to start the year by tearing apart the New Orleans secondary.
Whatever happens Monday this looks to be an exciting fixture and I can see the Falcons coming out on top.
: Falcons win 35-31
Who do you think will win? Sound off in the comments!