The Atlanta Falcons hope to be a different team this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints than they were the last time they played, a 25-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals leading into the bye week.
But regardless of on-field play, the Falcons will enter Sunday in much better shape health-wise as the week off significantly helped several key players.
Atlanta was without a lengthy list of starters against Arizona, as defensive tackle David Onyemata, nickel cornerback Dee Alford and receiver Mack Hollins didn't play due to ankle injuries.
Factor in the expected season-long absences of defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (knee) and linebacker Troy Andersen (pectoral) and the loss of quarterback Taylor Heinicke (hamstring) in Arizona, and the Falcons returned home with many wounded pieces.
When asked about Onyemata during Monday's press conference, Falcons coach Arthur Smith shared a positive update on both he and Alford.
“He’ll be out there today," Smith said. "Dee Alford, same thing.”
The outlook isn't as positive for Hollins, Atlanta's No. 2 receiver, and Heinicke, who lost the starting job to Desmond Ridder but will remain the team's backup.
“Mack, he’ll be kind of like Taylor - he won’t be out there today but think he might have a chance,“ Smith said. “We’ll just have to see more on Wednesday.”
Atlanta's lost three consecutive games and six of its last eight overall, but with a win Sunday over New Orleans, will be back atop first place in the NFC South.
Will the Falcons be fully healthy? No - but at this point in the season, nobody is. That said, they appear to be much closer than they were before the bye week and should get at least two big names back in the mix.
Kickoff between Atlanta and New Orleans is set for 1 p.m. inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.