NFL Picks Value Lies in Total for Saints vs. Falcons

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 1:54 PM GMT

Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014 1:54 PM GMT

We start our year's NFL picks off with a trip to the NFC South where the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons are set to battle. While a few Week 1 betting trends might hint at a certain play, we believe the door is wide open to look the other with our NFL picks in this matchup.

There’s nothing like a huge conference game to start off the new NFL season and that’s exactly what the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons will be involved in when these two NFC South powers get together on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (FOX, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT).

The second game on the NFL rotation—after the season opener on Thursday night between the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT)—and the first one on the board on the NFL Week 1 schedule, this Down South rivalry is usually perceived by most as a high-scoring battle between gunslinging QBs Drew Brees (Saints) and Matt Ryan (Falcons). With Atlanta now on the apparent downswing and New Orleans ready to get back to the level it was before the suspension of head coach Sean Payton two seasons ago, is it right to view this series as one the Saints should own and one that will tend to skew toward the Over? Let’s examine.

NFL Odds Report & Early Picks for All Week 1 Matchups

Despite Being Season Opener, This Game Could Have Impact on NFC Sout
New Orleans (12-6 SU, 10-8 ATS) and its high-octane offense are currently 3-point favorites on almost all NFL odds boards right now—the Mirage in Las Vegas still had a 2½ on Monday evening—over the host Falcons (4-12 SU, 7-9 ATS) and the game’s Total is at 51½ almost everywhere. And that seems like a pretty fair number considering the situation (first game), the playing surface (FieldTurf), the starting QBs (Brees and Ryan), the WRs (the Falcons Julio Jones and Roddy White and the Saints Marques Colston and Robert Meachem) and the league’s general evolution into the high-scoring beast that it has now become. Woof.

Head coach Mike Smith’s defense in Atlanta (9/2 to win NFC South, 25/1 to win NFC, 50/1 to win Super Bowl) has steadily declined over the last three seasons and the 4-12 record last season can’t be winning any new fans over in the Southeast. With TE Jimmy Graham and much more confidence heading in—as well as wins in both meetings last season (27-17 in NO and 17-13 in Atlanta)—the Saints (4/7 to win NFC South, 6/1 to win NFC, 12/1 to win Super Bowl) definitely deserve to be the field goal favorites in this opener. And in such a tight and tough division, which also includes the upstart Carolina Panthers (4/1 to win NFC South) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7/1), winning this Week 1 contest may prove to be the difference—but probably only from the Saints point of view. We will see.

Track NFL Odds Movement for Saints vs. Falcons

What Team Do The Funky Trends Favor In the Peach State on Sunday?
The Falcons sporadic nature cries for the gambler to automatically fade (go against) a team on the decline which has alienated its fan base like the Falcons (Season win total 8½u -160) have and it’s hard to gauge a team that covered five of its last six games after losing seven of its previous eight to the number. Who knows. Maybe the numbers were just reverting back to a statistical mean. But many of the team trends still support the Dirty Birds here including the Saints being 0-4 ATS as a Road Favorite last season and this little gem from Marc Lawrence’s Playbook 2014 Football Preview Guide: The Saints are 1-7 ATS as Road Favorites in the First Quarter of the Season (Games 1-4) vs. < .500 Opponents With Revenge in Mind and Atlanta no doubt is a < .500 opponent after its 4-12 nightmare in 2013 and definitely has revenge on its mind after losing both meetings to their NFC South rivals.

NFL Betting Trends for Week 1 Matchups

What’s the Best Approach and a Trend With Some Real Meat on the Bone?
Taking the Saints (Season win total 10 Over -130) minus three points seems so darn easy in this situation, but if the crowd in Atlanta is going to be up for one game, it will be in this season opener and they too will remember the two losses to New Orleans last season and be as vocal as a Falcons crowd can be for the occasion. The Saints (14/1 at Ladbrokes and William Hill) probably have the best chance of any team in the division to actually Win the Super Bowl, while Atlanta will likely be in rebuild and don’t-let-the-franchise-slip-too-much mode. The the best odds for the Falcons to become NFL champions are up to over 4x higher than the highest odds on New Orleans to win it all (Atlanta, 67/1, BETDAQ).

Going for the Falcons is the fact that QB Ryan is 28-19-2 ATS at Home and that Atlanta is 28-15 ATS with Revenge on its mind. More good news for the Falcons and its potential backers at betting windows and online sportsbooks was the news that star RB Steven Jackson returned to practice last week from a right hamstring injury and was expected to be ready to go against the Saints on Sunday according to coach Smith. That’s good for the home side’s running attack and also good for slowing the game down against the almost Arena Football-like Brees (51-43-4 ATS Away) and his skill position players and Under players. For Atlanta to hang, they need to try to control the time of possession and keep the ball away from Brees.

And for me that’s the smart choice for your NFL picks in this game—the Under. The Total in the the last 5 meetings between these two teams has gone under every time averaging a mere 41.0 points per game, over 10 points below the posted total now. And the two meetings last season had a total number of points scored of 40 and 30—also a far cry from the 52 that was still hanging in most casinos in Sin City on Monday night—and also went under the total. With the dome and the QBs and the hype, it definitely seems like an ‘Over series’ and an edge to the Saints but many of the trends and numbers reveal a completely different story. The Under here seems both smart historically from a mathematical point of view as well as when factoring in rust and nerves involved with the first game of any season in any professional sport. This one probably ends somewhere in the 40s with the Saints showing again who the better team is these days.

Free NFL Pick: Saints-Falcons Under 52

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