Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Betting Pick
Opening Line: Saints -3
Atlanta finished 13-3 last year and lost in the NFC Championship Game. New Orleans finished 7-9, losing four of their last six games. The teams split the season series with both teams winning at home.
The Falcons averaged 378 yards-per-game last season but knew they had to become more diversified on offense. Enter RB Steven Jackson. The 10-year veteran gives the team a pounder inside who can move the chains on 3rd down, a problem in the recent past. The Saints were historically bad in 2012, allowing 440 yards per game. They surrendered 147 yards-per-game on the ground and 293 yards through the air. Their move to a 3-4 will take time and we feel Atlanta will have no problem moving the ball on the ground. QB Matt Ryan has the best pair of wideouts in the league in Julio Jones and Roddy White. With the Saints' best pass rusher, OLB Will Smith, out for the year due to injury; look for Ryan to hurt the Saints with deep and intermediate throws. New Def. Co. Rob Ryan's teams have always blitzed in the past but New Orleans doesn't have the corners to stay with these receivers. Throw in TE Tony Gonzalez and we feel the Saints will have major problems containing the passing game as well.
New Orleans possesses the best offense in the NFL over the last five years and they get HC Sean Payton back this season from a one-year suspension. The Saints weren't balanced offensively last year as they rushed for only 99 yards per game. Look for Payton to try to establish the run but we feel the Falcons can hold up in run defense. Their youngsters in the front seven are another year older and should be better in '13. The Falcons used their first two draft picks on corners and are better prepared to face the passing onslaught of the Saints. Atlanta lacks an established pass rusher but New Orleans' O-line won't be as good this season as they lost LT Jermon Bushrod to free agency. The Falcons may blitz a backer or corner on occasion but they know they must keep seven players in coverage on most passing downs. TE Jimmy Graham must be accounted for on every play and RB Darren Sproles has been lethal out of the backfield.
ATS Game Pick
Rich Crew's Pick: Atlanta should battle for the NFC's top seed again this year while New Orleans will be hampered by a defense learning a new system many of them aren't suited for. We like the Falcons to win outright but have no qualms about taking the three points.