Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints: Week 1 Preview

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The 2022 NFL season is here, and the Atlanta Falcons open the year hosting the New Orleans Saints in Atlanta as 5.5-point underdogs. The Falcons will be shorthanded with Deion Jones, Isaiah Oliver, and Marlon Davidson on the Injured Reserve list. None of those players, other than Oliver, is a tremendous loss at this point, but Drake London’s availability for Sunday’s matchup is uncertain, which could play a much more significant role in the team’s chances of upsetting the Aints. Here’s your Week 1 preview:

Falcons Roster

I extensively broke down the changes each team’s roster underwent this offseason:

The most notable difference for the Falcons is the quarterback position, Mariota replacing Ryan, which should give Arthur Smith more flexibility in his play design and calling. The mobility of Mariota should also alleviate some pressure from the offensive line. He can extend plays with his feet, and Smith should be able to move the pocket more often this season.

The Falcons effectively replaced Moreau with Hayward, which has to be seen as the most glaring upgrade on the roster. Hayward isn’t an All-Pro anymore, but he’s the best running mate AJ Terrell has had in his career.

Saints Roster

New Orleans significantly downgraded at tackle. Terron Armstead is one of the best left tackles in the league; his departure shouldn’t be glossed over. Combine that with the injury of rookie Trevor Penning, and the Falcons should be able to exploit this weakness. However, that wasn’t the Saints’ most significant loss.

This honor goes to the head coach position. Dennis Allen will take over for Sean Payton, who led the Saints to more success than any other head coach in the team’s history. Allen is a defensive specialist, so Falcons fans don’t have to worry about Payton’s excellence on the offensive side of the ball haunting them anymore.

Falcons Expectations

USA Today boldly predicted the Falcons would be picking No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft; after all, the organization has the least amount of cap dollars allocated to active players on the roster and nearly $20 million less than the second-to-last Browns. Still, those circumstances haven’t stopped the people inside the building from believing in one another.

Veteran Casey Hayward questioned why the Falcons couldn’t surprise people and compete following the Matt Ryan trade. Grady Jarrett explained why he thinks the team is closer than people realize. Kyle Pitts told reporters not to underestimate the Falcons, adding the team can compete for a Super Bowl.

The coaching staff is echoing similar sentiments. Dean Pees boldly predicted they’ll be mentioned in the same conversations as the great defenses he coordinated in Baltimore and New England. That sort of confidence starts at the top and resonates throughout the organization, including the head coach, who recently compared the incredible success of the iPhone to the Falcons.

The Falcons fan base is rather divided on how the team will do this season, but I believe Atlanta is capable of winning as many as six or seven games if everything goes right. Unfortunately, to play the devil’s advocate, if everything goes wrong, they could wind up with the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

Saints Expectations

The Saints, however, are on a much different path. The fans believe Jameis Winston is the second coming of Jesus, and their defense will resemble that of the Steel Curtain. And honestly, they’re probably not that far off. If Winston can stay out of his own way, the Saints’ offense should be pretty good with the array of weapons at his disposal — Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, and Alvin Kamara. And the New Orleans defense will surely be one of the top units in the league once again.

However, I also believe those fans are underestimating the impact Sean Payton‘s departure will have in 2022. Dennis Allen hasn’t been a successful head coach in the past, but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed this time around. Still, Allen’s expertise lies on the defensive side of the ball, and I believe the Saints’ issues this season will be on the other side of the ball. They’ll be playoff contenders, but nothing more.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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