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Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: Preview and Pick
The NFL week one schedule features one of the greatest divisional rivalries that have grown over recent seasons. The Atlanta Falcons will go up against the rival New Orleans Saints in the opener as both teams have high expectations for the upcoming season. These teams are expected to compete in a crowded and competitive NFC South but it all starts in week one.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Odds
The odds for this game opened up with the Saints as (-3) point favorites which is a number often posted by odds makers to show home field advantage. That number has stayed pat leading up to kickoff and still sits at a field goal, which shows just how even these teams are. The total is set at 54 which is by far the highest total of any game on Sunday afternoon.
The Atlanta Falcons were one game away from the Super bowl and are hoping that changes they have made in the offseason will get them over the hump. Matt Ryan is back at quarterback for this team but there is a different face in the backfield. Stephen Jackson comes over as an explosive running back that can catch and run the rock. Jackson will join Julio Jones and Roddy White as one of the most talented offensive packages in the league.
On the other side of the field, Drew Brees will lead the high flying Saints into this season as the true heartbeat of this team. The team will be pleased to see head coach Sean Payton back on the sidelines after serving a year suspension for bounty gate. Payton will look to take the pressure off Brees and the rest of the team that had to step up in his absence.
The Saints will also look to make up for one of the worst defensive efforts in the history of the league.
Both teams have some favorable sports betting trends in this game. The Falcons are 9-4 against the spread (ATS) in their last 13 games in Week 1 and 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 road games. The Saints are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 home games and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. NFC South. When it comes to the series, the Falcons are just 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings although the underdog is 6-2 ATS In the last eight games.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Pick
The game between the Falcons and the Saints will be one of the most exciting games to watch in week one as there should be plenty of offensive fireworks. Check back as a pick will be added as we get closer to game day.
1.The Defense has gone nowhere. Last Season, New Orleans ranked dead last in defense. They were horrible. Historically bad. Now they have switched to a 3-4 and haven’t had the personnel to really shine in a 3-4 quite yet.
2.Injuries galore. Jonathan Vilma is injured. Will Smith is injured. The 3-4 defenses life blood is the linebackers. The saints are now running on reserves and the season hasn’t even started yet. They won’t be able to get sufficient pressure on the quarterback.
3.The run game. Atlanta finally has a running game. Last season the Saints ranked dead last in run defense. This year they switch to a system that doesn’t do very well to stop the run. I’d be shocked if Stephen Jackson didn’t get 100+ yards against New Orleans.
4.The secondary. The Saints weren’t the best at coverage. They used their first round pick to (no, they didn’t get a 3-4 linebacker or a 3-4 defensive end, or a nose tackle.) they got a safety. I’m sure he’s doing alright, but they aren’t spectacular. They need to be able to take on the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. They won’t be able to cover everyone and still apply pressure.
5.Drew Brees is in his decline. I would never go as far as to say that Drew Brees is a bad quarterback. I wouldn’t even say he’s less than good. But his days as a great player are over. You can blame problems on your head coach not being there as much as you want, but Drew Brees (not the head coach) threw five interceptions in Atlanta last year. He can’t carry the saints anymore.
6.Matt Ryan is reaching his prime. Ryan is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s getting better each year and in the second year of Dirk Koetter’s offense, he should shine even brighter. He should be able to pick the secondary apart and have a lot of time to do so.
7.Nolan is where nightmares come from. Mike Nolan (Falcons DEF coordinator) really likes to make looks that confuse the quarterback. Each player is very versatile and the quarterback doesn’t know what to look for. There will be turnovers in this game.
8.Getting pumped up. The Atlanta Falcons are ready for a Super Bowl run. They know what they are capable of. They want to beat the saints. They are taking this game very seriously and the saints just won’t be able to keep up. When the Falcons get excited about a game, it is very difficult to beat them. they want revenge from the last time they traveled to the Superdome and they won’t settle for anything less than victory.
9.History is on the Falcon's side. Not only do the Falcons have a decent sized lead in the series, the Falcons have never lost in the season opener to the saints. In Fact, none of those games have even been close. It doesn’t really count as a reason they will win, I just like to point it out.
10.Simply Better. We can pull up all the little parts and pieces that make both teams win. But this year in particular, the Falcons are simply better. They have a better passing game, a better running game, a better defense in all areas. Even with the big weakness at right tackle, they don’t have the tools to beat Atlanta. This is Atlanta’s time. New Orleans’ time has passed.
There are many reasons more. You can mention Tony Gonzalez’s last ride, the Falcon's improved run defense, the new schemes and Julio Jones' best year yet. There are too many reason why Atlanta is better compared to the New Orleans and their only explanation of “Sean Payton is back.”
The New Orleans Saints said mostly all the right things Monday about trying to treat this week's matchup against the rival Atlanta Falcons like any other game. About not getting too caught up in the emotions surrounding it. At the same time, there is no use in denying that these annual grudge matches get a certain "rise" out of them. "I'm definitely geeked up," Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette said.
Galette says he doesn't think the Atlanta Falcons have much respect for the Saints, which adds intensity to rivalry. Galette is usually the most animated player in the Saints' locker room on any subject. So it was no surprise that he was the most animated player when it came to discussing the Falcons rivalry, talking about how the Saints want to "dominate the division" and throwing in some jabs about how he doesn't think the Falcons respect the Saints much and how the rivalry has been "pretty lopsided" in recent years.
Meanwhile, Saints punter Thomas Morstead embraced the rivalry in a fun way after the Saints' final preseason game last week, proudly displaying a picture of himself on Twitter in a custom T-shirt of a gold fist squeezing a red and black falcon.
And linebacker Curtis Lofton has never made any secret of the personal passion that comes into play when these two teams meet, since he's now been on both sides of the rivalry.
"For me, I try to treat every single game the same. I don't put any more emphasis on any single game," said Lofton, who spent his first four years with the Falcons before joining the Saints last year. "But it is a rivalry. I mean, we don't like them, they don't like us. And I definitely don't like them. "So I'm looking forward to playing them, and I can't wait 'til Sunday."
The challenge, of course, is for the Saints to channel that passion in the proper way. But players insisted that won't be a problem. After all, they do this twice a year with the Falcons. And as Coach Sean Payton put it best Monday, "We play in a lot of games with a lot of hoopla around it, whether it's Sunday nights, Monday nights or postseason games. It's still about protecting the football," Payton said. "It's still about blocking and tackling. It's about all the things that we have control over. But those other things, we will try to eliminate as best as we can."
Although the Saints-Falcons rivalry used to exist more in the minds of the fan bases than the players, that has certainly changed in recent years, for a number of reasons. The main one is that these two teams are both in the midst of their most extended runs of success in franchise history. So they've been jockeying for position atop the NFC South for the better part of the past five years (though the Saints have gotten the best of the head-to-head matchups, winning 11 of the past 14).
Then, of course, there is the bad blood that has continued to escalate in recent years with various forms of trash talking. From Atlanta receiver Roddy White's disparaging comments about New Orleans in 2010; to some Falcons taking offense after Saints players posed for pictures after a victory inside the Georgia Dome in 2010; to some accusations the Saints ran up the score in a late-season victory in 2011; to Falcons players taunting Lofton during pregame stretches last year; to Saints linebacker Scott Shanle referring to the Falcons as "like our little brothers" last year.
"We know they don't have that much respect for us," said Galette, referencing past comments made between players through social media. "But we don't pay attention to that. We just want to buckle up on Sundays. ... Less talking, more playing."
However, Galette fanned the flames a little more himself soon after when he described the recent history between the teams as being "pretty one-sided." "I have no idea why that is. Maybe they're scared to come in the Dome. But we beat them at home, at their house too," Galette said. "I don't really know what it is. I just feel like we want to dominate the division. Our main focus after we dominate the division is to do everything else, wing the NFC. But our main focus is to dominate the division. Atlanta is one of the better teams in the division."
Other players like Lofton and safety Roman Harper, however, disagreed with Galette's notion that the Falcons don't respect the Saints. "I can speak to when I was there my four years, we definitely held the Saints in very high regard," Lofton said. "And I still have a couple friends there and they do the same."
"I wouldn't say we're disrespected by them. I think we are very respected," Harper said. "Our record versus these guys has always been we're been on the winning side, and it's always a tough-fought battle. And it's definitely a rivalry-type feel with this team."
The Saints were going to be plenty amped for the start of the regular season this year, regardless of the opponent. But Harper said they might as well embrace the fact that it will also come inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against their biggest rival.
"We've got to look at it as a positive, in the fact that we've got a chance to go out against one of the harder teams, one of the best teams in the league and see where we're at early," Harper said. "And if we do win this game - which we plan on doing -- we'll be two games up in the division. And that will give us a little jump start to where we need to be. A little confidence booster going forward."
The Atlanta Falcons now have another option at right tackle besides Lamar Holmes. Coach Mike Smith said that the Falcons have signed veteran Jeremy Trueblood. He previously was a starter in Tampa Bay before losing his job last season and spending this preseason with Washington.
Holmes, a second-year player, has struggled since taking over at right tackle when Mike Johnson went down with a season-ending injury. Holmes is likely to start the season opener, but Trueblood could challenge him as soon as he learns the offense. To make room for Trueblood, the Falcons released offensive lineman Terren Jones.
Robert Meachem rejoined the Saints , signing a one-year deal with the team. After a disappointing season with the San Diego Chargers, Meachem will come in and try to regain the form he exhibited during his time in New Orleans, where he caught 141 receptions and 23 touchdowns in four years.
The move works for both parties. If Meachem succeeds anywhere, it will likely be in New Orleans, under Sean Payton and alongside Drew Brees and other former offensive teammates. It's one year and low-risk for the Saints and there aren't undeniably compelling reasons why he can't be a reasonable downfield threat throughout the year. Meachem did suffer a head injury in the final preseason game but the blow is not expected to sideline him long-term.
Meachem will not be expected to contribute right away, as young receivers Kenny Stills and Nick Toon emerged as supplementary pieces to Saints primary threats Marques Colston and Lance Moore this preseason. Meachem will likely ease his way back into the rotation and, given his familiarity and potential, it's not out of the question that he's given opportunities to succeed at an early stage of the season.
1. Falcons defensive line vs Saints offensive line:
This match up will be key for the Falcons as they will look to blitz Drew Brees and create sack opportunities for their defense. Atlanta is starting to come along and they will need for Osi Umenyiora and the Atlanta defensive front to step up and cause havoc against New Orleans offensive line, who will start a new left tackle after losing Jermon Bushrod to free agency.
Mike Nolan needs to take advantage of this opportunity and try to disrupt the Saints offensive rhythm throughout the entire contest. The Saints offensive line finished with the seventh lowest total of QB sacks surrendered, but Charles Brown isn't proven and they will have the opportunity to test him.
2. Julio Jones vs Keenan Lewis/ Roddy White vs Jabari Greer:
The receiving match-ups will be a very intriguing test for the New Orleans Saints secondary because in their last trip to New Orleans, Roddy White and Julio Jones posted great numbers.
On Sunday, Roddy White will face a familiar face in Jabari Greer. Greer is arguably the best cornerback in the Saints secondary and have played Roddy White very well in their contests against each other in the past; unfortunately for him, he didn't have an answer for the Falcons receivers and struggled. Another intriguing match-up is newly acquired corner back Keenan Lewis facing against Julio Jones. Jones is a mis-match to majority of NFL defenses and that could be a target for Matt Ryan on Sunday.
3. Falcons secondary vs Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston:
The Falcons must be careful to find a way to contain Colston from having a huge game on Sunday. Colston have given the Falcons defense fits for years and Atlanta's defense must use their ability to disguise schemes to prevent New Orleans from getting their top receiving threat going.
Another intriguing person is Jimmy Graham, who is Drew Brees security blanket and second most used target in New Orleans passing attack. Akeem Dent, Sean Weatherspoon and the rest of the linebacker corps will need to play tight coverage on the explosive tight end because if he's allowed to have his way, it could be a long game for the Falcons secondary on Sunday afternoon.
If the Falcons can limit one of the two targets, you're in a favorable position to earn a win against the Saints on Sunday. Graham has caused fits for the Falcons defense in the last few match-ups and the Falcons must prevent Drew Brees' top target from having a monster afternoon.
4. Tony Gonzalez vs Curtis Lofton: Part III
In the last two games against New Orleans, Tony Gonzalez has presented fits for the entire New Orleans secondary, especially former teammate Curtis Lofton. In the first game in New Orleans, Gonzalez posted over 100 yards and a score and in Atlanta, Gonzalez scored one of the best touchdown passes of last season against his former team-mate so expect Matt Ryan to test this match-up early and often. Expect Matt Ryan to target Tony Gonzalez and see if Lofton can contain the Hall of Fame tight end. Gonzalez could be due for a huge game in the Super Dome.
If the New Orleans Saints take any solace in their 1-1 record against the Atlanta Falcons last season, they can probably point to one area where they came away satisfied. The Saints had the league's worst run defense last season, but in two games against the Falcons, that unit was the least of their worries.
In the first meeting between the two teams, a 31-27 Saints win, New Orleans held the Falcons to 46 yards. Starting tailback Michael Turner generated only 15. Even in the second meeting, a 23-13 Saints loss, they managed to contain the majority of Turner's yards to the first quarter.Turner rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown, but 67 of those came on the first two drives. After that, the Saints had no problem holding him to runs of 5 yards or less, while forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Turner is now out and Steven Jackson is in after the Falcons signed the veteran running back to shore up a running game that ranked 29th in 2012. Jackson, 30, was with the St. Louis Rams from 2004-12, where he was a two-time All Pro. He has rushed for 10,135 career yards and 56 touchdowns.
"You have to respect his running game," said Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. "Without a doubt, he'll bring a different aspect that Michael Turner couldn't."
But the Falcons perhaps will face a new problem as well. The Saints' new 3-4 alignment is better suited to stopping the run than last season's 4-3.
"I think the first game of the season creates all kinds of challenges for every team in the league because all of the teams have gone out and vetted their coaching staffs to come up with new ideas, even if you're running the same scheme," said Falcons coach Mike Smith. "It will be different because we are facing a 3-4 defense. "We did play the Dallas Cowboys last year where Rob was coaching, so we do have some film. It's not like the 3-4 is something that has just been invented."
Turner led the Falcons' with 800 yards rushing last season but had nine games of 50 yards or less. Jackson has pieced together nine straight 1,000-yard seasons. Last season, he carried the ball 257 times for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson might be entering the downslide of his career, but the Saints aren't taking him lightly, especially with a new team that should invigorate him. "He's powerful, he's fast. ... He is one of the more respected running backs," Jordan said. "At one point in time, he was one of the elite running backs of his era."
Added Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan: "Obviously, he has been an incredible player for his tenure in the league. He is a huge addition for us. I think on the field, his diverse skill set adds to our offense."
Jackson also has the ability to catch balls out of the backfield, a dimension Turner didn't show much. Jackson caught 38 passes for 321 yards last season.
"Steven has a very good skill set, not only as a running back but as a receiving back. It gives you options on the offensive side where you don't necessarily have to have a change-of-pace back," Smith said. "You can run the same personnel groupings and the same plays with Steven in the game. He's been very effective as a runner."
The Falcons also have scatback Jacquizz Rodgers, who was their second-leading rusher with 362 yards and a touchdown.
Nothing like a high flying game to start the season between two rivals. The Saints and Falcons are known for great games and this should be just as good. The Saints will be excited to have Payton back on the sideline and that will allow Brees to stay focused and put up points. Not 100% sold on the Saints defense, but cannot go against the Saints at home.