Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) hands the ball to Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a NFL football game at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. (Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune)

The Atlanta Falcons have decided on a starting quarterback for their key NFC South game vs. the New Orleans Saints after the teams' bye week.

Desmond Ridder will return to his role as starter, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The game next Sunday in Atlanta is the first of two meetings between teams fighting for the title in the mediocre NFC South; the Saints lead the division at 5-5, with the Falcons at 4-6. In between are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 4-5 entering Sunday's game at the San Francisco 49ers.

Both the Saints and Falcons are off this week.

Ridder had completed 65.4% of his passes for 1,740 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions in eight starts, with 150 yards and four touchdowns rushing on 32 attempts. As a starter, Ridder went 4-4 before he was benched for Taylor Heinicke during a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 29. Ridder was evaluated for a concussion during that game, but Falcons coach Arthur Smith named Heinicke the starter regardless of health.

Heinicke then started for Atlanta during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 5 and against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, but Ridder replaced him when Heinicke injured his hamstring. Rapoport's report suggests that Ridder was named the starter regardless of Heinicke's health.

The Saints have their own uncertainty at quarterback for the game. Starter Derek Carr suffered a concussion during last Sunday's loss to the Vikings and was replaced by Jameis Winston, who threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Head coach Dennis Allen said Monday that Carr remains his starter when healthy. But if Carr isn't out of concussion protocol by next Sunday, Winston will start against Ridder.

Ridder made his NFL debut against the Saints last season in a 21-18 loss at the Caesars Superdome that also came after both teams' bye week. He completed 13 of 26 passes for 97 yards and was sacked four times. He also rushed six times for 38 yards.

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