New Orleans Saints Head Football Coach Dennis Allen discusses the positives and areas the need to be cleaned up after the first preseason game at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. The Saints lost the game 17-13 against the Texans. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/AP Member – editor@thegazebogazette.com

LAS VEGAS PICK:  -5 SAINTS

Since the beginning of the New Orleans Saints 55 years ago in the National Football League (NFL), the Atlanta Falcons; aka “The Dirty Birds,” have always been the most disliked opponent.  Whether there are cultural differences between both cities or close proximity in geographical distance, neither organization likes to be around each other.

In the Metro area of Atlanta, there are over 6 million people versus that of New Orleans, which consists of roughly 1.2 million in population throughout it’s metropolitan area.

While the football rivalry runs deep, the series is as close as the cities are in location with the Falcons holding a 54-52 advantage after 106 meetings.  Most of the national media didn’t pay attention to this rivalry during the early years, but this changed because the teams battled the division (NFC South) for the last decade.  

Even though there have been up to 15 notable games in the history of the rivalry, the talent level has leaned towards New Orleans the last five years.  We’ll analyze each aspect of the game below to put the details into a better perspective.

POSITIVES:

Defensively, the Saints hold a clear advantage in this part of the game as the Falcons gave up 27 points a game in 2022.  Although Atlanta’s Quarterback Marcus Mariota is not in the same category as former Falcons signal-caller Matt Ryan, he did have a few decent preseason outings and Tight End Kyle Pitts can provide some over the middle damage against New Orleans’ young middle linebacker group.  EDGE = SAINTS

NEGATIVES:  

While the Saints have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, stopping the running game from Atlanta should be the top priority.  Running Back Cordarrelle Patterson can be shifty and break tackles if he has decent blocking.  If the run game starts to build, Falcons Receivers Pitts and Drake London become quality options.  Other than South Mississippi’s veteran Demario Davis, the linebackers from New Orleans lack big game experience.  Meanwhile Atlanta’s defensive unit has been virtually non-existent for the last two years and against Pro-Bowlers; Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the odds look to be in favor of the Saints again.  EDGE = SAINTS

OVERRATED:  

Let’s be honest:  Losing in the Deshaun Watson trade to Cleveland cost Atlanta heavily, both from losing their veteran Quarterback Matt Ryan and being dry in the free agent market.  The coaches and general manager can say what you want, but this is a team searching for their identity.  On the other side, New Orleans has a few questions in the secondary.  Without pointing towards starters Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu), Paulson Adebo, Marshawn Lattimore, or Bradley Roby, how much depth do we have in the defensive backfield and can this sustain for the whole season.  EDGE = SAINTS

UNDERRATED:

Just like I said in the column last week, the ground game and the offensive line will look to open the season right on target.  If Kamara and Ingram can manage a stable running attack behind the offensive line; which may be questionable from the injury report, then the passing lanes will open and New Orleans should cruise to victory.  Atlanta’s Tight End Pitts appears to be the only factor that could cause problems.  EDGE = SAINTS

BOTTOM LINE:

Even though there are always a few mistakes and penalties called early in the season, the New Orleans Saints should win the game and cover the Vegas spread at ease.  Don’t be surprised if the game is more defensive by nature, but my prediction will favor New Orleans.  EDGE = NEW ORLEANS SAINTS + 7.