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Week 1 Saints-Falcons Winner Has Early Leg Up In NFC South

July 29, 2014

Other than last season, the Atlanta Falcons have been a very good team since quarterback Matt Ryan was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. However, Ryan seems to have his troubles against Drew Brees and the NFC South rival Saints. New Orleans swept Atlanta in 2013 to improve to 9-2 against the Falcons since ’08. The two face off in the Georgia Dome to kick off the 2014 season and Atlanta is a 1.5-point WagerWeb favorite with a total of 51.5.

Atlanta led the NFC with 13 wins in 2012 on the way to the conference title game but plummeted to 4-12 last year because of an early-season injury to star receiver Julio Jones, a porous running game and an even worse rushing defense. Jones is healthy now and the Falcons added key pieces on both the offensive and defensive fronts this offseason.  They are +250 at WagerWeb to win the NFC South.

New Orleans finished 11-5 last season, a game behind Carolina in the division. The Saints were not a great road team at 3-5 but were unbeaten at home. They pulled an upset in the wild-card round of the playoffs at Philadelphia for the first road playoff win in franchise history. New Orleans lost the next week in Seattle. The Saints were again one of the NFL’s top offenses as Brees threw for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns. He has a new weapon in 2014 first-round pick, a receiver from Oregon State. The Saints are +135 WagerWeb favorites to win the South.

The Saints opened last season at home against Atlanta and won 23-17. Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores and safety Roman Harper intercepted Ryan’s tipped fourth-down pass in the end zone in the final minute. Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 7-yard score in the third quarter to give the Saints the lead for good. Ryan passed for 304 yards and touchdown passes to Tony Gonzalez (now retired) and Jones. In the final three minutes, Ryan quickly drove Atlanta to the Saints 3 before the New Orleans defense stiffened.

The Saints had been historically futile when opening the season against the Falcons, losing each of their first six Week 1 matchups. New Orleans had been 0-6 in openers against Atlanta, losing by an average of 21.3 points. The home team has now covered the past five meetings against the WagerWeb spread.