Big night ahead in the NFC South

It’s going to be a big night in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons hosting the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints playing at the New England Patriots.

Both game are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET. It’s the preseason opener for the Falcons, so I wouldn’t count on seeing the starters play very long. That’s just the typical protocol, and the Falcons are likely to give their starters more playing time in the second and third exhibition games.

But I’m expecting to see more of New Orleans’ starters on Thursday night. The Saints already have played one preseason game -- a win against Arizona in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game. Quarterback Drew Brees only got one series in that game and the first-team defense played only slightly longer. But, if assistant head coach Joe Vitt follows the normal routine -- and he usually does -- you’ll probably see the New Orleans starters playing at least the full first quarter and maybe even into the second quarter.

I’ve got the technology set up so I can watch both games at the same time at NFC South Blog headquarters. Soon after the games end, I’ll post observations on the Falcons and Saints on the blog.

We’ll do it again Friday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at Miami at 7:30 p.m. ET and on Saturday when the Carolina Panthers host the Houston Texans at 7 p.m. ET.