New Orleans — When the New Orleans Saints march into the Louisiana Superdome tonight, much of the world will be watching as the Crescent City takes a huge step in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
The Atlanta Falcons also recognize the circumstances as they face a team full of emotion as it makes its long-awaited homecoming. But in the grand scheme of the NFL schedule, it's a matchup of two undefeated teams vying for first place in the NFC South.
Trying to ignore the distractions of the event has been a lofty task for Saints coach Sean Payton. He said despite all the media hoopla and hype, it's been business as usual.
"I think the players understand that there are a number of things that go into this game that are important," Payton said. "Obviously, it's an exciting time for the city. It's an important game for two teams that are 2-0 in the same division. So, one of the things that comes with winning is you'll find yourself playing in more important games."
Both teams view Monday night's game as just another game between the lines. And although they've tried to deflect the attention surrounding the game, both teams comprehend the significance of Monday night's game.
"Everybody knows what happened down there," Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Everyone is going to be rooting for those guys. We're rooting for those guys."
Most of all, the Saints are rooting for the city's return, and a win.
"It's like one of those feelings that if you come out victorious in this game, they are liable to set the city on fire," defensive end Charles Grant said.