The New Orleans Saints enter the 2014 NFL season as the prohibitive favorites to win the NFC South title and will kick things off with a divisional battle against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
The Saints won both meetings with an injury-plagued Atlanta team last year but were held in check offensively each time by a determined Falcons defense.
Saints Falcons Point spread: The Saints opened as one-point favorites, but the line was minus-2.5 by Wednesday; the total was 51.5. (Line updates and matchup report.)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.2-16.7 Saints
Why the Saints can cover the spread
New Orleans will be attempting to cover a small number as a road favorite, which has not been an easy task for this team over the years. The Saints were 3-5 straight-up and just 1-7 against the spread away from home during the regular season last year, which played a big role in them finishing second in the NFC South behind defending division champion Carolina.
But oddsmakers are expecting bigger things from New Orleans this year after two impressive road covers in the playoffs, including a tough 23-15 loss to eventual Super Bowl champ Seattle.
The Saints are always dangerous offensively with quarterback Drew Brees gunning for his fourth straight 5,000-yard season, and he started last season by throwing for 357 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-17 home win over Atlanta that covered a nearly identical number.
They usually beat the Falcons (13-3 SU run) and perform well within the NFC South (12-4 SU).
Why the Falcons can cover the spread
The Falcons lost star wide receiver Julio Jones to a foot injury early last season, and their hopes of winning a second straight NFC South title seemed to end when he was put on Injured Reserve.
Jones and fellow WR Roddy White appear to both be back healthy this year for Atlanta, which gives QB Matt Ryan two weapons he desperately needs in order to be successful, especially with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez retiring. This team was very close to getting to the Super Bowl just two years ago, and it still has most of the pieces in place to make another run this season.
The Falcons are 5-0 ATS when starting the season at home and fortunate enough to get the opportunity to extend that streak in such a big game out of the gate.
New Orleans is getting bet hard on futures and in Week 1, so the public will either be very right or very wrong about this team, depending on who covers the number. The Saints have absolutely dominated this series over the last eight years, going 13-3 despite their struggles on the road against other teams.
In the past five meetings, New Orleans has won four of them, with each game decided by four points or more. Even though both teams have Pro Bowl QBs in Brees and Ryan, the running backs could very well be the difference, and the Saints have a much better stable with which to work.
Atlanta RB Steven Jackson was a major disappointment last year, and the New Orleans defense looks like one of the league’s best, which could render him a non-factor.
- Falcons 5-0 ATS when starting season at home
- Saints are 13-3 SU past 16 vs. Falcons
- Saints were 1-7 ATS on road in regular season last year
- Falcons 1-7 SU past eight games as home underdogs