With the 2022 season looming, it’s time to start looking at each game individually.
First on the list: The Dirty Birds of Atlanta.
This is a “I hate you, you hate me” rivalry full of hostility and jaw-jacking. Atlanta leads the all-time series 54-52, but the Black and Gold have taken four of the last five meetings, including the last three in Atlanta. Below, the team will give their takes on what will go down in Week 1 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Matt: Week 1 is always anybody’s guess as what’s going to happen. Teams are still getting accustomed to playing with one another, knocking off the rust, etc. Throw in the added wrench of having a new head coach, and the odds would normally be stacked against the Saints.
The Saints have owned Atlanta over the last couple years, and New Orleans is getting a ton of new weapons for 2022. Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, and Michael Thomas returning will make the offense elite now that Jameis is back from his ACL injury. Throw in Boom and Zoom and this team is going to be tops in the league in total offense.
Don’t even get me started on the Saints defense. Mathieu, Maye, CJGJ, Demario. I could go on, but my point has been made: this defense is lethal. They were near the top of the league a year ago, and they look to improve on that this season.
Also, Atlanta will have plenty of their own question marks, now that they’ve moved out of the Matt Ryan era and into the...Marcus Mariota era? Look, I’m not saying the Falcons won’t be good in 2022, but I’m saying they aren’t going to be great in 2022.
I see this game being a back-and-forth affair, but New Orleans is going to be too much to handle for the Dirty Birds.
Score: Saints win 38-24
Chris: Sure, the Falcons look like absolute trash on paper.
But let’s take a step back and really think about this. How different from the Saints are they really?
Each has a former top pick from the 2015 NFL Draft as the quarterback after the originally-drafting team ended up deciding that quarterback wasn’t good enough to win with - Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota and New Orleans’ Jameis Winston. Each has one proven pass-catcher on offense - Kyle Pitts and Michael Thomas. Each has a rookie wide receiver who they hope takes the offense to the next level - Drake London and Chris Olave.
That’s where the comparisons stop.
The Saints have an average to above-average offense line, a Pro Bowl caliber running back, and one of the better defenses in the NFC. Assuming Michael Thomas is ready for the start of the season, I can see the Saints put up a fair amount of points against a weak Atlanta defense, even if Alvin Kamara is suspended to start the year. The Saints defense should be good enough to give Mariota and the Falcons fits all game.
Score: Saints win 35-17
Tina: This one is tricky. It’s week 1 and yes, it’s the Falcons BUT there are question marks on both sides of the field.
Everything that we’ve been hearing out of New Orleans is that Jameis Winston is looking good and ahead of schedule recovering from his knee injury. Prior to tearing his ACL last October, Winston led the team to 5 wins with 14 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a QB rating of 109.9. He is not 100% yet so only time will tell how he will look at the start of the season. The addition of Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry and return of Michael Thomas should only help make the offense stronger by giving Winston the weapons he obviously lacked last year. Provided that Alvin Kamara is not suspended for Week 1, the offense should be back on track after an uncharacteristically lethargic season.
The defense will be even more of a force to reckon with since they signed Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye. Adding them in with Marshon Lattimore, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cam Jordan and Demario Davis, I “almost” feel sorry for the Falcons.
In Atlanta, Matt Ryan is gone and it’s Marcus Mariota’s time but he hasn’t started a game in almost 2 seasons. Who is he going to throw to? Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season. We don’t know what rookie Drake London will do and Kyle Pitts can’t do everything plus there is their questionable offensive line. And don’t get me started on their defense that ranked 30th in points allowed, 26th in yards allowed and had only 18 sacks, the fewest in the league last season.
This is no longer the Sean Payton era, a man who pretty much owned the Falcons so much that he should have been given some stock. But there is a new sheriff in town and Dennis Allen will surely come out swinging against the Falcons, eager to prove his critics wrong. If he can start the season 1-0 with a win against Atlanta, he will start to win over some pessimistic fans too. Ultimately, I think the Saints will get it done on the road because they are the stronger team plus it will be like a home game anyway.
Score: Saints win 34-20