New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons: Prediction, matchups, how to watch, and more

Here's a preview of Sunday's Week 1 New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup, including predictions, key injuries, and how to watch.

The New Orleans Saints missed the playoffs in their first season without Drew Brees, and now they’re facing their first campaign post-Sean Payton. After shoving their chips to the middle of the table over the offseason, can the Saints make headway in the NFC? In Week 1, they’ll face the division rival Atlanta Falcons, who are on the other end of the competitive spectrum for the time being.

Let’s take a look at the matchups in this Saints vs. Falcons divisional game, examine the key injuries, and get predictions from PFN’s NFL staff.

New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons preview

The Saints were 4-2 when Jameis Winston went down with a torn ACL in Week 8, and the Trevor Siemian/Ian Book tag team couldn’t keep New Orleans afloat down the stretch. Winston returns with a new-look receiving corps that includes Michael Thomas (who’s barely played since 2020), first-round pick Chris Olave, and free agent addition Jarvis Landry.

But the Saints’ real strength is on defense, where coordinator-turned-head-coach Dennis Allen has kept the club near the top of league leaderboards for years. There’s been some turnover in the secondary, where Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye have replaced Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. But this unit has the potential to be the best in the NFL.

No unit on the Falcons’ roster will finish among the league’s best, but the team has a few exciting pieces as they begin their rebuild. Tight end Kyle Pitts and first-round receiver Drake London give Atlanta’s quarterback — Marcus Mariota for now, Desmond Ridder likely later — two big bodies who can run after the catch.

On defense, A.J. Terrell is a legitimate shutdown cornerback. Veterans like Grady Jarrett and Casey Hayward are solid starters, but they won’t be part of Atlanta’s next playoff roster. The Falcons need to see development from rookies Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, and DeAngelo Malone, plus second-year safety Richie James, in order to feel good about their future.

How to watch

  • Date/Time
    Sunday, Sept. 11, 4:25 p.m. ET
  • Channel
    CBS
  • Live Stream
    Vidgo, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV (some markets), fuboTV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Stream, FOX Now

Matchup and stats

The Falcons and Saints have played 106 times since 1967, and the all-time series record is extremely close. Atlanta holds a narrow 54-52 edge, but New Orleans has won four out of the last five.

These two clubs ended the year against one another in 2021. The Saints needed a victory and some help to get into the playoffs. They got the victory part right with a 30-20 win over the Falcons, but the 49ers defeated the Rams in Week 18 to wedge New Orleans out of the final NFC postseason slot.

New Orleans Saints 2021 stats/rankings

  • Scoring: 21.4 (19th)
  • Yards: 304.5 (28th)
  • Yards per play: 4.9 (26th)
  • Passing: 187.4 (32nd)
  • Rushing: 117.1 (15th)
  • Defensive scoring: 19.7 (fourth)
  • Yards allowed: 318.2 (seventh)
  • Yards per play allowed: 5.1 (fourth)
  • Pass defense: 224.8 (14th)
  • Rush defense: 93.5 (fourth)

Atlanta Falcons 2021 stats/rankings

  • Scoring: 18.3 (27th)
  • Yards: 303.8 (29th)
  • Yards per play: 5.13 (23rd)
  • Passing: 218.4 (16th)
  • Rushing: 85.4 (31st)
  • Defensive scoring: 23.9 (22nd)
  • Yards allowed: 364.4 (26th)
  • Yards per play allowed: 5.6 (24th)
  • Pass defense: 232.5 (18th)
  • Rush defense: 131.9 (27th)

Injuries to know

New Orleans Saints:
CB Paulson Adebo (ankle, out)
WR Tre’Quan Smith (groin, out)
RB Dwayne Washington (hamstring, out)
WR Michael Thomas (hamstring, questionable)
S Tyrann Mathieu (illness, questionable)
C Erik McCoy (calf, questionable)
LB Pete Werner (groin, questionable)
OT Landon Young (hip, questionable)
S J.T. Gray (hamstring, questionable)
TE Dylan Soehner (physically unable to perform)
OT Trevor Penning (injured reserve)
DE Malcolm Roach (injured reserve)
DT Albert Huggins (injured reserve)
G Forrest Lamp (injured reserve)
OT Ethan Greenridge (injured reserve)
LB D’Marco Jackson (injured reserve)
S Smoke Monday (injured reserve)

Atlanta Falcons:
WR Drake London (knee, questionable)
CB Darren Hall (quad, questionable)
LB Deion Jones (injured reserve)
CB Isaiah Oliver (injured reserve)
TE John FitzPatrick (injured reserve)
G Jalen Mayfield (injured reserve)
DT Marlon Davidson (injured reserve)
DT Vincent Taylor (injured reserve)
LS Beau Brinkley (injured reserve)

Prediction

Betting line (courtesy of Caesars)
Saints -5.5; Saints -240, Falcons +196; O/U 43

Adam Beasley’s Prediction
1-0 straight-up, 1-0 against the spread in 2022
Saints 40, Falcons 10

Dalton Miller’s Prediction
1-0 straight-up, 1-0 against the spread in 2022
Saints 23, Falcons 10

Dallas Robinson’s Prediction
1-0 straight-up, 0-1 against the spread in 2022
Saints 27, Falcons 7

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