Falcons at Saints Picks and NFL Week 1 Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 6/19/2013
Every team in the NFC South -- the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Bucs and Carolina Panthers -- has won the division at least twice since it was created for the 2002 season. But did you know no club has ever won it back-to-back? Pretty unusual, but it does seem like two teams in the South are in an up cycle every year and two in a down. Well, except for 2012. With New Orleans struggling to a 7-9 record -- as did Carolina and Tampa Bay -- without coach Sean Payton for the entire season as a result of a Bountygate suspension, the Falcons won the division by a whopping six games, tied for Denver for the largest spread in the NFL. The Falcons had a +120 points differential while the Saints were the only other South club at a positive with plus-7.
It's widely expected to be a Falcons-Saints duel this year with Payton back, with Atlanta at +110 to repeat and New Orleans at +150 on WagerWeb. Thus, the teams' Week 1 matchup at the Superdome could be a key tiebreaker down the line. Both the Saints and Falcons were 3-3 in the division last year.
Falcons at Saints Betting Story Lines
Both these teams' flaws a season ago were defensively. The Falcons finished No. 24 in total defense but a good No. 5 in scoring. Bend-but-don't-break sort of thing. However, Atlanta jettisoned three good players off that side of the ball in John Abraham (team-leading 10 sacks), Brent Grimes (played in just one game due to injury) and top cornerback Dunta Robinson. The team did sign former Giants DE Osi Umenyiora to replace Abraham's production.
The Falcons' two biggest moves were on offense. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez put off retirement for one more year, and Atlanta dumped declining tailback Michael Turner for former Ram Steven Jackson. A Matt Ryan/Jackson/Gonzalez/Roddy White/Julio Jones quartet is pretty darn good. I'm not overly sold on the offensive line, however.
The Saints defense was one of the worst in NFL history last year, allowing a whopping 292.6 passing yards per game and 28.4 points, both No. 31 in the NFL. Thus, New Orleans' biggest offseason addition likely was former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his switch to a 3-4 scheme. Expect rookie first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro, a safety from Texas, to start right away.
The offense can only improve with Payton back making calls. Drew Brees and Co. led the NFL in passing yet again last season and averaged 28.8 points. Do that again, and the playoffs should be in order. Brees doesn't have one featured back but a nice stable between Pierre Thomas, former Heisman winner Mark Ingram and third-down back Darren Sproles.
The Falcons and Saints split their two meetings in 2012. In Week 10 in New Orleans, the Saints handed Atlanta its first loss of the season, 31-27, as a one-point dog and a total of 54. Matt Ryan threw for 411 yards and three scores, two to Gonzalez, who became the eighth player in NFL history with 100 TD catches. Brees threw for 298 and three scores with Jimmy Graham catching seven balls for 146 yards and two TDs. You will rarely see two tight ends go so crazy in the same game. New Orleans held the Falcons to just 46 yards rushing. The Falcons couldn't score on second-and-goal from the Saints 1 with under two minutes left.
In Week 13, the Falcons beat New Orleans 23-13 in Atlanta to all but end the Saints' playoff hopes. Atlanta was a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 54 again. Brees threw a career-high five picks, and his record streak of throwing a touchdown in 54 straight regular-season games ended. He had one to Sproles wiped out by penalty. Ryan wasn't actually very good, going 18-of-33 for 165 yards.
Falcons at Saints NFL Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb.com, the Saints are 2.5-point favorites with the total at, shockingly, 54. New Orleans was 8-8 ATS last year (4-4 at home) and 10-6 “over/under” (5-3 at home). Atlanta was 9-6-1 ATS (5-2-1 on road) and 5-11 O/U (4-4 on road). The Falcons were 2-8 O/U on turf, with obviously most of those at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta was a 2.5-point dog or more twice last regular season and won both, at Philly and at San Diego. The Saints were 2-0 ATS as 2.5-point favorites or less.
Falcons at Saints Picks and Week 1 Betting Prediction
New Orleans has fared well against Atlanta since Coach Mike Smith took over the Falcons, winning seven of the 10 matchups. The last time Payton was on the sideline, the Saints were invincible at home in 2011 and an offensive juggernaut there. I see no reason why that changes. Take the Saints and the over.
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