5 things to know before today’s Saints at Falcons kickoff



Here are 5 things to ponder before today’s 1 p.m. kickoff between the New Orleans Saints (6-9) and the Falcons (8-7) at the Georgia Dome.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones goes up over Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly for a long touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to take a 14-10 lead over the Panthers during the third quarter in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. The Falcons ended the Panthers perfect season with a 20-13 victory. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones goes up over Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly for a long touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to take a 14-10 lead over the Panthers during the third quarter in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. The Falcons ended the Panthers perfect season with a 20-13 victory. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

1. JULIO JONE’S RECORD CHASE: For Jones, whom the Falcons traded six picks to acquire back in 2011, he’s just doing his job. Jones has a franchise-record 127 catches for a franchise-record 1,722 yards and eight touchdowns and has drawn within striking distance of the league’s single-season marks for catches and yards. Jones is 17 catches away from breaking the NFL single season reception mark of 143, which was set by Indianapolis’ Marvin Harrison in 2002. He needs a whopping 243 yards to break Detroit’s Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 yards receiving, which was set in 2012.

2. TRUFANT VS. COOKS: The should be a good matchup. Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks has 79 catches for 1,116 yards and nine touchdowns. Cooks caught five passes for 123 yards last week against the Jaguars, including a 71-yard touchdown. The 100-yard game was his third in the past four games and fourth of the season. Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant has been targeted 54 times on a 911 snaps. The 54 targets are an NFL low among cornerbacks who have played at least 75 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, according to profootballfocus.com. Trufant has also only given up 31 receptions, which is the third lowest total among cornerbacks who have played at least 75 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.

3. MAKE A LASTING IMPRESSION: This will be some players last chance to make a good impression on the coaching staff. Here’s the Falcons’ free agent situation: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Chris Chester, RG; Adrian Clayborn, DE/DT; Kroy Biermann, DE; Gino Gradkowski, C/G; Jake Long, OT; Bryce Harris, OT; Tony Moeaki, TE; Philip Wheeler, LB; Charles Godfrey, SS and Shayne Graham, K. FALCONS RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Paul Worrilow, LB; Ryan Schraeder, RT and Nate Stupar, LB. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Ricardo Allen, FS and Ben Garland, OG.

4. BYE, BYE PAYTON: If this is Sean Payton’s last game as the Saints head coach, the Falcons fans should throw a party. He’s taken on all comers from Jim Mora, Bobby Petrino, Mike Smith and Dan Quinn since 2006. The Saints have posted a 11-4 over the Falcons during his tenure. Of course, he was suspended for the 2013 season over the Bounty Gate scandal.

5. SERIES RECORD: This will be the 93rd regular-season meeting with the Saints. The Falcons hold a 48-44 edge in the series. The Saints have won 7 of the last 10 meetings.



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