For the second consecutive year, the New Orleans Saints will open up the season against a team that many Saints fans love to hate. Only this time, the Saints have to go to the Georgia Dome to claim their victory.
I know, that does sound a bit arrogant and "any given Sunday" and all of that stuff. But for the past seven years that Coach Payton has been on the sidelines, the Falcons have been absolutely owned by the boys in Black and Gold.
The Las Vegas Hilton Sportsbook (which I have been to, very impressive set up) seems to think that a 4-12 team from a year ago will have what it takes at home to give two points against the Saints on kickoff weekend. Personally, I am not sure how they have come to that conclusion, but it makes me feel like once again, the Saints are not getting the respect that they deserve. While teams like the Patriots are 3.5 point road favorites against the division rival Miami Dolphins (8-8 last season), the Saints do not even open the betting lines with the benefit of the doubt with an opponent that they have absolutely owned. (Check out all of the opening betting lines here.)
Here are some fun facts of how the Saints have done week 1 and against the Falcons as well. All of these stats include seasons where Sean Payton was on the sidelines, so I do omit the farce that was the 2012 season (even though the Saints were still 1-1 against the Falcons then)
- In week one games, the Saints under Coach Payton are 5-2. While they are 4-0 in week one home games, the Saints are 1-2 in openers on the road. Both of those losses came on Thursday night kickoff games against defending Super Bowl Champions.
- Five of the seven season openers were against teams that made the playoffs the year before. The Saints are 3-2 in such games, again only losing the two road games to defending Super Bowl champions.
- Two of those seven games were against teams that finished under .500 the year before. The Saints won both of those games, one of them on the road, one at home.
- Under Coach Payton, the Saints are 12-2 against the Falcons and they have been an equal opportunity a** kickers. 6-1 at home, 6-1 on the road.
So where is this line coming from? Is it an infatuation over Julio Jones returning? Because with Payton on the sidelines and Jones on the field, the Falcons are 0-3. Are they really not going to miss future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez at tight end? Because that guy sort of had 80+ catches three of the last four seasons. Do the Vegas line makers actually believe that a 4-12 team from a year ago made all of the necessary moves to counter a team in the Saints that were top 5 in offense and defense, who by the way, landed arguably the best safety in football?
While the lines in Vegas do tend to fluctuate and it may be a bit early to be surprised by this, I can't help but to wonder how a team like the Panthers who gave up their top 4 wide receivers can be 2.5 point road favorites against a much improved Bucs team (who had a similar record to the Falcons) but the well balanced Saints are set as underdogs. (Oh and by the way, the Panthers haven't won a season opener since 2008)
So it's not a "they're favored because they're a division rival at home" sort of thing. Vegas is assuming that Atlanta will find its winning ways again in 2014. But what are they saying about the Saints? I guess it is time to wear that underdog costume once again. But have no fear, Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the rest of the Saints are here.