FBG says: Neutral matchup. The sports world has to pity the Falcons, who have been absolutely ravaged by injury through just two weeks of football. As badly dinged as their defense is, their offensive run game has been hit badly in its own right. Devonta Freeman will sit out his second straight game, leaving Tevin Coleman as the lead dog again. And Coleman will work behind a line that's missing longtime guard Andy Levitre, an underrated technician in the run game. Ben Garland is a solid replacement, but he's not quite the same presence as a run blocker. Coleman is a speedy runner who can work wonders with a full head of steam, but he's not powerful or elusive. If the usual holes aren't there, he could struggle, even against the Saints' so-so front. He'll be spelled by rookie Ito Smith, who looked impressive as well in Week 2, gathering 46 yards on 8 rushes. This deep unit isn't dead in the water, and their Week 2 onslaught on the Panthers' tough defense was impressive. But any group missing such crucial pieces should be looked at with some degree of skepticism.
The Saints' much-maligned run defense has feasted thus far, decisively shutting down Peyton Barber and Carlos Hyde to the tune of just 112 yards over 35 carries. Still, those were both semi-plodding runners, and there's still reason for concern among this unit. Their mediocre linebackers, lacking in athleticism and pursuit discipline, will be tested when Tevin Coleman is able to reach the second level. Demario Davis has shown well on the weak side in his first year as a Saint, but he's handcuffed by the mediocre play of his teammates. Sometime soon, the dam will burst for this unit, and a speedy runner like Coleman could be the impetus.