When I first took a look at the NFL week 1 schedule months ago, this is a game that caught my eye right away. Not just from a gambling perspective, but from a game that is going to provide an entertaining game. The New Orleans Saints are finally back to some normalcy, as they get their head coach back from suspension, Sean Payton. Payton is one of those coaches that has a huge impact in games. He and Drew Brees go together like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Consequently, I think you’ll see a much better Saints team this year that will be in a much better position to make the playoffs.
Conversely, the Atlanta Falcons are a team that is always a popular pick to win the Super Bowl from fans in the preseason. If you take a look at many peoples Super Bowl prediction for this year, I’m sure you will find a few with the Falcons in it. The Falcons have the offense to do it, so it wouldn’t at all surprise me if they’re in New York at the end of the year. The NFL is a league built off of offense now, so any team with an offense as good as this have a chance.
Falcons vs. Saints Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons +3 (-115)
@ New Orleans Saints -3 (-105)
Under 54.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Saints Pick:
The Atlanta Falcons already had a solid offense last season, coming in near the top of many offensive categories, but they went out and got better in the offseason. The Falcons acquired the long time Ram, Steven Jackson, in the offseason. Jackson is entering the later stage of his career, but still has plenty left on the tank I believe. He thrived in the Rams’ offense that had no vertical threat down the field, and now comes to an offense that is one of the best in passing the ball around. I expect big lanes for Jackson on Sunday against the Saints. I have always wondered what the guy would be like on a great offense, now we’re finally going to have the opportunity to see what he can do in one. Jackson is coming off a 1042 yard season in St. Louis, a number that should jump up from playing in the Falcons’ offense. Matt Ryan will be back leading the Falcons as the field general at quarterback for another season. Ryan didn’t miss a beat in 2012, bringing in his best season as a pro with 4719 yards with 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Ryan’s is a good player, but it was the drafting of receiver Julio Jones that catapulted the offense into another level. Flanking Jones will be the ever reliable Roddy White and then the ageless one Tony Gonzalez at the tight end position.
The Falcons’ offense should find it easy to move the ball against the Saints. The Saints defense took a turn for the worst a season ago, and even though Payton is back on the sidelines, the defense is still going to have issues. It was evident in the third game of the preseason where the Houston Texans were able to move the ball at will against them, and I think it will be a storyline in the regular season. The Saints hired former Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Ryan employs a 3-4 attack which could be taking some getting used to in New Orleans. It appears they had some problems with it in the preseason, and it should prove to be a similar storyline in the regular season. They haven’t really done much to get better on defense and their best defensive player, Jonathan Vilma, is entering the season on the IR. The Saints defense broke records last year, not in a favorable way, allowing the most yards by a team in NFL history in a season. The defense was putrid from every angle: 32nd rushing defense, 31st passing defense, and 32nd overall. Rob Ryan has a big task ahead of him if he wants to have a job next season in the NFL.
The Falcons are going to need to exploit that terrible defense, because the Saints’ offense is definitely going to put up points Sunday afternoon. The last time the Saints had a shot at the Falcons at home they put up 31 points on them. The Saints will do that at home to not just the Falcons, but they have been doing that for years now since Brees has come to New Orleans. A season ago the Saints ranked 2nd in total team offense and 1st passing the ball. Pretty much a complete 180 from the way their defense performed. The Saints will have their usual suspects on offense, including Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham at tight end, but what I think is going to be the big X factor for the Saints is a player they drafted out of Oklahoma. Wide receiver Kenny Stills provides just another option in the Saints’ offense. Stills has plenty of speed which will test the Falcons secondary deep. There’s so much for Brees to work with once again in 2013.
This game has shootout written all over it. The total is this high for a reason, I think the oddsmakers couldn’t set it high enough here. 54.5 is certainly high for an NFL game, but I think this one is going to have a college feel for it with the amount of yards picked up from both offenses. The Saints had the worst defense of all time last year and I still don’t think they improved any. If anything, I think the 3-4 defense is going to cause some confusion early in the season. Steven Jackson should have a big game in his first start as a Falcon. Look for the Saints and Falcons to play back and forth football all game long with a final score similar to the 31-27 score in New Orleans last year.
PICK: OVER 54.5 (-110)