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New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons Preview and Prediction

The New Orleans Saints travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on the Atlanta Falcons to kick off the first game of the 2022-23 NFL season Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.

After splitting their season series last year with each team winning on the road, both teams are coming off mediocre 2021-22 seasons. The Saints (9-8) and Falcons (7-10) both missed the playoffs and are looking to build and improve this season.

The overall record between the two teams is 54-52 in favor of the Falcons. Will Atlanta add to their lead or will the Saints close the gap even more?

The Saints are rolling out a fresh regime this season after Sean Payton stepped down. But there is still continuity within the coaching staff with long-time Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen stepping into the head coaching role.

The Saints are also getting back a few big playmakers in quarterback Jameis Winston, who tore his ACL in Week 8 of last season, wide receiver Michael Thomas who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, and running back Alvin Kamara who started just 10 games in 2021.

 New Orleans brought in defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and wide receiver Jarvis Landry as free agents and added another weapon in wide receiver Chris Olave with the 11th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Falcons are entering another year with low expectations, but maybe the biggest difference between this year and last year: no Matt Ryan. The Falcons offense will not be led by Ryan for the first time since the 2007 season.

The Falcons brought in quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason to pair with his former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Mariota and Smith were both with the Tennessee Titans in 2019.

Smith enters his second season as Falcons head coach and will definitely have his work cut out for him with the losses of Ryan, and wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage on offense as well as the NFL’s leading tackler Foye Oluokun on defense.

Ridley was absent most of 2020 before being suspended for the entirety of 2021. Gage was second on the team in receiving yards, and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.  Oluokun signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent.

Atlanta has also brought in playmakers on both sides of the ball in Mariota, wide receiver Drake London who was the No. 8 overall draft pick, wide receiver Bryan Edwards, and cornerback Casey Hayward.


The Falcons open the season as 5.5 point underdog against the Saints and rightfully so. The Saints outmatch the Falcons in almost every category and position on paper.

Both teams come into this game a little banged up.

For the Falcons, London suffered a knee injury in Week 1 of the preseason that has kept him out of practice for the last month.  Smith said earlier this week at media availability “we won’t know until the end of the week” regarding whether or not London will play Week 1.

For the Saints, they will be without first-round pick offensive tackle Trevor Penning as he underwent foot surgery recently. They could also be without Thomas as he suffered a minor hamstring injury and has been limited at practice this week; however, NFL insider Ian Rapoport has said “Michael Thomas will go Week 1.

Mariota and the Falcons offense will have their work cut out for them as they face the NFL’s 4th ranked defense from last season. Last season the Falcons offense ranked 29th, averaging 85.4 rushing yards per game and 218.4 passing yards per game.

Tight end Kyle Pitts will be the focal point of the Falcons offense, and the Saints will most likely throw a variety of different coverages to try and stop him. The main matchup Pitts will see is most likely Mathieu who was a selected to the Pro Bowl again last season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Mathieu was the 38th ranked safety last year according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), but he carried a solid 75.7 coverage grade.

Cordarrelle Patterson,  London, and  Edwards will also look to be big pass catchers for Mariota. Patterson led the team last year in yards from scrimmage, and Edwards had 571 yards receiving last year with the Las Vegas Raiders.  

Mariota’s last extensive action came in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders when he filled in for the injured Derek Carr. Mariota threw for 226 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. Mariota has looked comfortable in Smith’ offense in the preseason with a 137.5 QBR

For the Saints, Winston will look pick up where he left off before his injury last season. In eight games played, Winston threw for 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns.

This season Winston has a plethora of new weapons in Thomas, Olave, and Landry as well as the return of running back Kamara. Winston is known as a gun slinger prone to interceptions, and his receivers will be shadowed by one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL in AJ Terrell and Hayward.

But, Winston is known to torch the Atlanta defense as he’s racked up 2500 yards and 25 touchdowns in his nine games against the Falcons with sky-high 109.1 rating (all with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).


In the end, the Saints will be too much for the Falcons to handle both offensively and defensively. Mariota will most likely struggle in his first start against this deep and talented defense. Winston and this offense will most likely expose this young defense in both the run and pass game.

Score Prediction: Saints 27 Falcons 17

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