The Saints are a team that didn’t make the post-season last year that has a good chance to take a step forward and make the post-season this year. However, if they do that, the primary reason is likely going to be that they were healthier than a year ago, after having the 8th most overall adjusted games lost to injury in the league a year ago, including the 2nd most games lost on offense, and, thus far, the Saints have not had much better luck with injuries, entering the season with among the most injury concerns in the league.
Already without expected starting left tackle Trevor Penning for the start of the season, starting cornerback Paulson Adebo is out this week, while top wide receiver Michael Thomas and starting safety Tyrann Mathieu are both legitimately questionable. Fortunately for the Saints, their season starts with one of their easiest games, even though it’s on the road, as the Falcons figure to be among the worst few teams in the league this season, at the start of a much needed rebuild, planning for 2023 and 2024 more than the current season.
The Saints are favored by 5.5 points in this matchup, but, my calculated line has the Saints favored by 8, even taking into account the injury uncertainty with Thomas and Mathieu. There isn’t enough here for the Saints to be worth betting at less than 100% against a healthy Falcons team, but, if Thomas and Mathieu play, I could take the Saints with at least some confidence. That confidence would be less if Thomas and Mathieu are both out, but I suspect the line would drop to 4 in that circumstance, so the Saints should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless.
New Orleans Saints 23 Atlanta Falcons 16
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -5.5