New Orleans Saints (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date and Time: Sunday, September 7, 1:00pm
Where: Georgia Dome - Atlanta, Georgia
by Bob, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NOR -3 / ATL +3
Over/Under Total: 51
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This Sunday, the NFL will finally kick off its regular season. We get a great NFC South rivalry to get us started when the New Orleans Saints travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Just two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were a single play away from going to the Super Bowl. However, in the 2013 season, the wheels came off and the Falcons found themselves among the worst teams in the NFC and actually all of football. The Saints come into Atlanta as 3 point road favorites and the total points are set at 51. The Saints and Falcons always play close games regardless of the teams records. Of the last 10 match-ups between these two teams, 9 of them were decided by one score or less. If that isn't competitive, I don't know what is.
The New Orleans Saints have been an NFC contender for the better part of the last decade. Ever since they obtained Drew Brees, they have been a major factor year in and year out. The Saints had their defensive woes over the last couple of seasons but with the high powered offense, they have a shot to win every game they play. Last season, Drew Brees passed for over 5,100 yards and 39 touchdowns, with Jimmy Graham catching 18 of those passing scores and racking up over 1,200 yards in receiving. The running game for the Saints could use a little improvement. In the 2013 campaign, their leading rusher, Pierre Thomas, was only able to amass 549 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. To be a serious NFC contender, that number must increase, and I am sure it will. With all that said about the 2013 Saints, now it is time to talk about 2014. This is the 2nd season in a row the Saints and Falcons will battle in week one. Just last season, the Saints were 23-17 winners while holding Atlanta in the final seconds from their own 5 yard line. I see another close battle in this one as well. The key to the Saints is to try and expose the young Atlanta corners and to also slow down Matt Ryan and the wide receiver tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White.
The 2012 Atlanta Falcons were one of the best teams in franchise history coming up just short of an NFC Title and Super Bowl appearance. Since that day against San Francisco, the Falcons have gone the complete opposite way. Finishing just 4-12 in 2013, the Falcons found themselves tied in the cellar of the NFC South, a division many experts thought they would win. Injuries were a huge part of the Falcons failures. Steven Jackson was hampered with a hamstring injury from week two and it kept him down for pretty much the rest of the season. Roddy White played injured for the fist half of the season, therefore he was never able to play 100%. In week five, Julio Jones suffered a foot injury that required season ending surgery. Not only did Matt Ryan lose three big weapons, he played with what was probably the worst offensive line I have ever seen. They were awful. These 2014 Falcons claim to be ready. Everyone is back from injury, the offensive line has been beefed up with the drafting of Jake Matthews and the acquisition of Jon Asamoah. Not only is the offensive side of the ball at full strength, but the Falcons defense has an edge to them. Tired of being called "soft," the Dirty Birds defense is coming out with a chip on their shoulder and playing at a more physical level.
This season opener is not only a big game for the NFC South race, but it would be a tremendous confidence boost if the Falcons got the win. The key to this game is the Falcons defense. The rushing defense was the 31st worst in the NFL last season but against the Saints, that is not as important as other teams they will face. The passing defense is where the Atlanta Falcons need some improvement. The 2013 passing defense gave up over 240 yards a game in the air, ranking 21st in the NFL. In order to slow down Brees, the DBs need to play solid coverage, but the Falcons defensive line MUST, and I mean MUST get pressure on Brees. If they can do this, the Falcons can not only cover the 3 points, but win the game.
Bob's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: This game is a total toss up. Like I said earlier, 9 of the last 10 games between these two teams came down to a single score. Both games last season were close match-ups, even as bad as Atlanta was. The Falcons want nothing more than to get themselves back into NFC contention and what better way to do so than to beat the Saints in week one. Roughly 75% of the early money is on the Saints. I like this, it means that the public is going very heavy on a road favorite. One thing I have learned about the NFL is home field advantage is huge. I have attended Falcons/Saints games in the Georgia Dome before and the Falcons edge is not as big as you would think due to the fact that many Saints fans reside in Atlanta now but the home field advantage is still there. I am going to fade the public here. Take the home dog and pick the Falcons. I feel a 24-23 win for the Dirty Birds on a late field goal. PICK THE ATLANTA FALCONS +3!!
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