NFL's Best Rivalry: Saints-Falcons, A Hate Week Like No Other
Saints. Falcons. Who Dat Nation. The Brotherhood. Dislike? No, unadulterated hatred.
The Atlanta Falcons versus New Orleans game Sunday inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be the 101st contest of the series. Atlanta leads New Orleans 52–48. The Saints are on a 3 game winning streak over the Falcons. Each team’s stadium is named on behalf of the Mercedes-Benz Corporation, and both have had inconsistent seasons in the NFL. I have witnessed painful ending after ending early in this series.
Growing-up in New Orleans, my father and I attended Saints games in Tulane Stadium and Superdome. Most times, I recall leaving disappointed and devastated after a Falcons game. Personal disappointment continued while attending college in Atlanta. The results were the same. Things turned in the 1990s and the rivalry intensified when the Saints began to win. Jim Mora, the Dome Patrol, and Bobby Hebert led teams had the Who Dats beginning to believe.
But when the two teams played in their only playoff appearance together in 1991, the Saints lost 27-20. A Super Bowl XXXIII visit by the Falcons, which they lost to the Broncos, with the Saints playoff failures created more animosity. Not only in the NFL but also with New Orleans and Atlanta’s communities. Relatives, friends and business associates all began to become foes during Saints-Falcons game weeks.
During Saints-Falcons game week, the two major Southern cities with rich histories and cultures forge a deep-seeded dislike for one another. Much like a college rivalry. There are college rivalries, but this has to be the best existing rivalry within the NFL. No mutual respect and love will reside within the hearts and minds of Saints and Falcons fans this week.
In the past couple of years, each organization and fans have taken pleasure in the other’s painful downfalls. First, Saints Fans saw the Falcons meltdown in Super Bowl LI. They led 28-3 with 2:08 remaining in the 3rd Quarter over the Patriots. However, Tom Brady led the Patriots to tie the game and win in overtime. This January, Falcons fans were ecstatic with the “NOLA NO CALL” and the Saints losing to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. There is no respect. There is no love lost.
This season, NFL experts projected the Falcons to reclaim the NFC South title from the Saints. This season has been polarizing for both teams with both going in opposite directions. New Orleans is leading the NFC South at 7-1, and the Falcons are 1-7. The Saints have recorded six-straight wins, so far the Falcons have fallen to six-straight losses. This game is important. Both cannot afford to lose.
For the Saints, a lost will give ground to a surging Carolina Panthers squad. Also, they will lose a one game lead over the Green Bay Packers for 2nd overall in the NFC playoff seeding. For the Falcons, it becomes a matter of respect, “saving face” in the league, and back in Atlanta. Especially since the two will meet again on Thanksgiving night.
No matter the case, the team who wins also wins bragging rights for their fans. Sometimes a win is a much needed placebo for a losing team. Make no mistake about it, bragging rights always are more important than an NFL record. Especially if its a Saints-Falcons game. A game like no other in the NFL.