Saints vs Falcons Week 1 Picks and Predictions: Saints Prove Steady Without Sean Payton

With Sean Payton enjoying retirement and Dennis Allen now at the helm, a new era of New Orleans Saints football begins. We break down their season-opening divisional matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in our NFL betting picks below.

Jason Logan: Senior Betting Analyst at Covers
Jason Logan • Senior Betting Analyst
Sep 9, 2022 • 18:22 ET • 4 min read

The New Orleans Saints ease into the post-Sean Payton Era against the Atlanta Falcons — a team many have pegged to finish dead last in the NFL this season. 

Despite Payton’s departure, New Orleans has continuity in its coaching staff with long-time defensive coordinator Dennis Allen promoted to head coach and offensive assistant Pete Carmichael carrying over Payton’s playbook as offensive coordinator.

Atlanta faces a new era of its own after trading away the face of the franchise, Matt Ryan, this offseason. The Falcons replace him at quarterback with Marcus Mariota, who could be keeping that No. 1 seat chair warm for rookie QB Desmond Ridder.

Atlanta is still very much in the midst of a rebuild, which is why the NFL Week 1 odds have it set as a sizable home underdog. We break down the spread, total, and give our NFL picks and predictions for Saints vs. Falcons below.

Saints vs Falcons best odds

Saints vs Falcons picks and predictions

The loss of Sean Payton is a big one — even with his established understudies taking over the clipboards in the Crescent City. There will be times this season in which NOLA misses his planning and in-game adjustments. This is not one of those games.

New Orleans has a shot of being one of the best two-way teams in the NFL and even after this Week 1 spread moved off -3.5 to -5.5, I still believe the Saints are the bet below the key number of -6, as the bulk of those moves were through dead numbers.  

This is a very manageable number for the Saints' offense when compared to where we left off with this group in 2021, as the ceiling is very high considering the quality of skilled players on the roster.

Quarterback Jameis Winston looked great in his first seven games in 2021 before going down with a knee injury, and after a foot issue in camp, he’s looked strong and ready under center. As does No. 1 WR Michael Thomas, who is expected to play after missing time with a hamstring injury. 

Add to the mix dual-threat running back Alvin Kamara and rookie roadrunner WR Chris Olave, and New Orleans has no shortage of scoring options against an Atlanta stop unit without any teeth. The Falcons did little to improve a pass rush that barfed out an NFL-low 15 sacks with a pressure rate of only 16.7% in 2021. 

As for the New Orleans' defense, we know you can’t run on this group, and Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith’s play-action plan isn’t fooling anyone with this group of running backs or an offensive line projected to sit 31st in ESPN’s blocking win rates for 2022.

New Orleans has also formulated a nasty pass rush to go along with the run stop, registering 46 sacks last year despite blitzing just 22% of the time (ninth fewest). That means linebackers can drop into coverage or keep an eye on the backfield while the front four feasts on a Falcons QB that’s thrown the ball a total of 30 times over the past two regular seasons.

New Orleans is already a popular pick with early-bird bettors and will likely draw plenty of public play come the weekend. You could be cautious of a potential lookahead spot to Week 2’s trip to Tampa Bay, but it’s hard to treat the season opener lightly — especially with a promoted coaching staff wanting to prove they’re the right choice.

Scoop the Saints at -5.5 before it's too late.

My best bet: Saints -5.5 (-107 at PointsBet)

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Saints vs Falcons betting preview

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Spread analysis Over/Under analysis Game info Injuries Weather Trend to know

Spread analysis

Back in May, the Saints opened as low as 3.5-point road favorites in Week 1 and that spread didn’t last long, with money pushing NOLA to -4 and then -4.5 in the first two weeks of action. 

A possible suspension to Saints RB Alvin Kamara paused most of the action over the summer until reports that his punishment from the league for an assault charge may come after the 2022 season. Upon that news, the action jumped back on NOLA in August and pushed the spread through the dead numbers and climbed as high as -5.5. 

According to Covers Consensus, New Orleans is drawing 55% of picks while some mainstream operators are drawing more than 80% of bet count on the Saints, which has stacked up to as high as 90% of the handle on the visitor.

Over/Under analysis

The Over/Under total hit the board as low as 41.5 points back in the spring and has bounced between that number and 42.5 points over the course of the summer.

Given the strength of the Saints' defense and the questions around the Falcons QB situation, more than 63% of the money is riding on the Under at BetMGM but rival book DraftKings is reporting more bets (80%) and money (62%) on the Over with this short total. According to our Covers Consensus, 62% of picks are also siding with the Over.

Saints vs Falcons game info

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Date: Sunday, September 11, 2022
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET

Saints vs Falcons key injuries

Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Saints vs Falcons weather

Monitor gametime conditions with our live NFL weather info and learn how weather impacts NFL betting.

Saints vs Falcons betting trend to know

Since 2006, the Saints are 30-18 SU, 29-19 ATS, and 16-32 O/U in divisional road games. Find more NFL betting trends for Saints vs. Falcons.

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