Sunday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m. (ET)
Pointspread: New Orleans -3
Total Line: 54
The Atlanta Falcons had the best record in the NFC last season at 13-3, but they could not get by San Francisco in the conference title game. Much of that same team remains intact especially at the offensive skill positions. Matt Ryan has a couple really dangerous targets in the passing game with wide receivers’ Roddy White, Julio Jones along with the return of veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez for one last run at a NFL title. Steven Jackson was brought in at running back to replace Michael Turner, which might turn out to be an upgrade with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Falcons’ defense was ranked 24th in the NFL last season in terms of total yards allowed, but it dropped down to fifth in league in what really matters the most; average points allowed. Atlanta parted ways with a couple of high-profile names on this side of the ball including cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker John Abraham, but it remains confident that it has successfully addressed the defense through free agency and the draft.
New Orleans became embroiled in a player bounty scandal before last season that not only cost head coach Sean Payton an entire year of his career on the sideline, but the entire team the 2012 season. They never recovered from all the turmoil and fell all the way to 7-9 last year. Payton is back at the helm and the entire team is now walking around with a huge chip on its shoulder that should remain in place all year long.
There is no doubt that with Drew Brees behind center this Saints’ team will once again be one of the most prolific passing teams in the league. The problems they could run into will running the ball and playing defense. They were ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 30th in total defense. The return of cohesion in the coaching ranks should go a long way towards straitening these issues out.
Free NFL Pick
No team has won the NFC South title two seasons in-a-row since the 2002 season and I think we are in for a changing of the guard this year as well. Atlanta is still a very good team and one that will probably make the playoffs as a wildcard, but it is New Orleans turn to get back on top and it takes that first all-important step by beating the Falcons on opening day by more than three points.
New Orleans 33 Atlanta 28
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.