NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at ATLANTA FALCONS
New Orleans Saints -5.5 (-110) o42.5 (-110) -225
Atlanta Falcons +5.5 (-110) u42.5 (-110) +185
These two teams really don't like each other. It's been one of the best rivalries in the NFL for a long time, and the records of the two teams don't really matter when they play.
That said, these are two different teams than we're used to seeing in a divisional rivalry. For the first time in more than a decade, former head coach S. Payton will be gone from the Saints sideline (yeah, he was suspended for one full season) and longtime Atlanta starting QB M. Ryan will be in a different uniform.
Instead, we'll see a couple of QB retreads under center -- J. Winston for New Orleans and M. Mariota for Atlanta. There's an upside with both of the starters, but things could just as easily implode on either side. Even if Mariota improves and lives up to his first-round draft pick potential, it's still tough to look at the Falcons' roster and see anyplace that inspires confidence. This team might end up with the worst record in the NFL. Moreover, there were times last season when Atlanta coach A. Smith looked like he'd completely lost his team, and his 6-11 record ATS reflects this downturn.
The one unit to keep an eye on will purportedly be the fiery Saints defense, ranked by many as Top-5 in the NFL. Assuming this unit lives up to high expectations, that's going to make Atlanta's prospects very difficult.
We really don't know what to expect from Winston, who was injured most of last season and hasn't demonstrated yet that he's the heir apparent to the post-Brees era. Winston looked brilliant at times during his career, but then has just as frequently played the dumbest football of any starting QB in the league. It's really a toss-up on what happens to Winston and this offense.
Accordingly, we're going to play UNDER the total in this game. We don't see either offense opening up the playbook much with so many new faces. New Orleans might not have to do much on offense, assuming their defense plays up to potential. reports indicate both teams are expected to run more than the league average, which may keep the clock moving. So, we'll take this one UNDER 42.5 points.