- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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With some help from ESPN Stats & Information, let’s take a look at some numbers and notes about Sunday’s matchups.
The Saints will face a starting rookie quarterback for the second straight week when they take on Cam Newton. They faced Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert last week. The only other time that’s happened in Saints’ history was last year, when the Saints faced Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen and Arizona’s Max Hall (the Cardinals beat the Saints) in back-to-back weeks. Since the start of the 2008 season, New Orleans has a league-high 17 interceptions against rookie quarterbacks.
New Orleans running back/return man Darren Sproles leads the NFL with 716 all-purpose yards. Since the 1970 season, Sproles is one of only two players to have 350 yards from scrimmage and 350 return yards in the first four games. The other was Terry Metcalf in 1975.
Newton has thrown for 1,386 yards through four games, the most ever by a rookie. Newton needs only 111 passing yards to break Marc Bulger’s record for passing yards in the first five starts by a rookie.
Last season, Carolina’s Steve Smith led the NFL in dropped passes with five on throws of 15 or more yards downfield. This year, Smith has yet to drop one of that distance and he’s been targeted 19 times in those situations.
The Buccaneers have a chance to put together their first four-game winning streak since 2008. A victory against San Francisco would give Tampa Bay its best five-game start since 2005, when the team went 4-1.
After rushing for just 15 yards in the opener, Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount has come on strong. Over the last three games, he ranks third in the NFL with 279 rushing yards.
The Falcons are 21-4 in the regular season in the Georgia Dome since Mike Smith took over in 2008. The only team with a better home record in that span is the Patriots, who are 22-3.
When Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan square off Sunday night it will be a meeting of quarterbacks who have had vastly different success rates when throwing downfield. On throws of at least 15 yards this season, Rodgers has completed 57.1 percent of his passes this season. That ranks third in the NFL. Ryan has completed just 30.3 percent, third-worst in the NFL.