The Atlanta Falcons have several intriguing home games this year but none more exciting than their Week 13 matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
Since quarterback Matt Ryan entered the league and became the starter in 2008, the Falcons have gone a combined 2-6 against their division rivals, with three of those losses happening in Atlanta.
This may not seem like a huge deal, but the facts suggest otherwise.
Under Ryan, the Falcons have a remarkable 58-6 record at the Georgia Dome, however half of those losses are against the Saints. This is in large part because New Orleans also plays indoors and possesses an offense that is built for a dome.
In the last four years, going back to when Ryan was a rookie, the Falcons have won the NFC South one time whereas the Saints have taken the crown twice. They have both made the playoffs three times in that span but unlike New Orleans in 2009, Atlanta has no hardware to show for it.
Not only are Ryan and Co. behind the Saints when it comes to Super Bowl trophies, but the Falcons have not won a playoff game since Michael Vick was the starter in 2004.
In order for them to break that streak and finally win a playoff game, winning the division and getting to play at home in January will prove vital. The last time Atlanta had a home playoff game was in 2011 when they were dismantled by the eventual champion Green Bay Packers, but it is not every contest that you have to face a nearly perfect Aaron Rodgers.
And last year, when the Falcons headed to New York for the opening round of the playoffs, "Matty Ice" had an unbearably cold game along with the rest of the team. The point is when your starting quarterback has a .906 career home record the coaching staff and players have more confidence playing on their turf.
There is a roadblock to this solution, however, and that is Drew Brees and the Saints. Every time these two teams are in a shootout, New Orleans finds a way to win the game in the fourth quarter.
If this becomes the case again in Week 13, the Saints will most likely win the division and the Falcons will be looking at a wild-card berth at best. On the other hand, a loss at home to New Orleans could mean no playoffs at all as the NFC wild-card race is going to be very competitive.
The Falcons need a playoff win under the Ryan and coach Mike Smith era, but they first need to beat their nemesis and biggest rival.