Who Are REALLY the Saints’ Biggest NFC South Rivals?

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Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) is tackled by New Orleans Saints defensive back Brian Dixon (20) and free safety Jairus Byrd (31) after a catch in the third quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

#1. Atlanta Falcons

Maybe it’s because the two cities are relatively close. Maybe it’s because New Orleans and Atlanta have more in common than they care to admit.

Whatever the reason, these two football teams hate each other with a passion, and it’s a heated contest each and every time they take the field.

The rivalry has been a hotly-contested struggle to see which team is the “better” one, and they’ve essentially broken even — with the Falcons currently holding a slight 49-45 advantage in the all-time series.

The rivalry has had a a lot of “flash points” over the years, to be sure.

There was the humiliating 62-7 drubbing of the Saints by Atlanta at the old Tulane Stadium in 1973. Then, there was the game that many older Saints fans to this very day consider to be the impetus for the rivalry up to the present moment: the game on November 12th, 1978; in which the Falcons won on the game’s final play, with a Hail Mary pass that Atlanta referred to as “Big Ben”.

Perhaps it’s fitting then that nearly 30 years later, that one of the greatest moments in recent Saints history came against these bitter rivals.

Steve Gleason’s blocked punt in the first game back in the Superdome after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, is a legendary moment in Saints lore.

October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; A statue titled Rebirth featuring the likeness of former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason blocking a punt by former Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen on September 25, 2006 as seen outside before a game against the San Diego Chargers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It signified the return of the franchise, and ushered in the era that would ultimately bring the Saints their first and only Super Bowl.

Last season, the unquestioned highlight of the Saints season was knocking off the then undefeated Falcons on a Thursday night in the Superdome.

The Falcons likely haven’t forgotten the taste of defeat and will be bringing their best effort against the Saints in 2016.

But regardless of whatever happens; from one generation of Saints fans to another generation of Saints fans, those damn “Dirty Birds” from the ATL, are still and will always be, the New Orleans Saints franchise’s biggest rival……