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Predicting our way through the 2022 Falcons schedule: Week 1 against the Saints

Will Atlanta start the season off right?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons’ season is a few months away, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to look at the schedule and try to figure out how this year is going to go. To that end, we’re taking a game-by-game trip through the 2022 slate and trying to figure out whether the Falcons win or lose each week.

We began with the season opener, naturally. The Falcons will host the hated New Orleans Saints in Week 1, pitting a work-in-progress Atlanta roster against a Saints team with a new head coach and plenty of new faces. Will the Falcons be improved enough to start the season off right at home by humiliating the most annoying football team in the world, or will they get the sadness started early?

Read on for our predictions, and then share yours.

Falcons 24, Saints 20

It is not shocking that I’m picking Atlanta against New Orleans, because I’d do so out of simple principle. Picking the Falcons to lose to a team that causes rule changes owing to tantrums, handles the salary cap like I do in Madden but more successfully, and has the worst trash-talking fanbase in football is repugnant to me personally. It may be more surprising that I genuinely do think Atlanta will win, so long as injuries or roster moves don’t change these two teams much between now and September.

New Orleans has some question marks on the left side of their offensive line, and while their passing game weapons look improved, Alvin Kamara may well miss this game owing to suspension. The defense looks solid—it’s hard to argue with the additions of Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu at safety in particular—but not anywhere near invincible if the Falcons make real strides on offense this year. These Falcons will be facing a Sean Payton-less team with some unsettled roster spots, and for my money, that’s enough to believe in what’s sure to be characterized as an upset.

I do expect it to be close and potentially frustrating—we sort of know how these games go—but I also think Atlanta opens the season with a win. - Dave Choate

Falcons 13, Saints 31

As a general rule, I predict the Falcons to win every single time against the Saints. The Saints, for sure, are dealing with a few questions marks. Who replaces Terron Armstead? Can the Saints win without Sean Payton? How much magic can they work on Jameis Winston?

Those are important concerns. The Falcons have significantly more. Significantly. Last offseason, it was clear the margin for error was small. Looking at 2022, the Falcons, if they execute everything perfectly, avoid major injury, certain key players take a step forward... and I just don’t see how it can come out the gate strong enough to beat New Orleans. Crazier things have happened in the NFL... but the Falcons are usually on the wrong side of those crazier things. Falcons look ready to get blown out at home to start 2022. - Matt Chambers

Falcons 17, Saints 20

To be clear, I really want the Falcons to beat the Saints in Week 1. I think it’s possible. But this is a particularly difficult draw to open the season, for several reasons. Most notably, Atlanta will be starting a quarterback not named Matt Ryan for the first time since 2008. While I think there’s a chance we could see this offense improve in 2022—particularly in the running game—I don’t think we’ll see a well-oiled machine to open the season. It doesn’t help that they’ll be facing one of the NFL’s best defenses, too.

There are certainly questions about New Orleans, as well, which is why I think the game will probably be ugly and close. Going from Terron Armstead to rookie Trevor Penning at left tackle will be a massive downgrade this year, even though I think Penning has a bright long-term future. I’m also not convinced that the Saints offense, helmed by Jameis Winston, will be anywhere near as productive without Sean Payton calling the shots. Atlanta falls just short here, but I think they’ll get their revenge later on. -Kevin Knight

Falcons 13, Saints 24

As vulnerable as the Saints look going into the season, they still pose plenty of challenges for a Falcons team that will be entering the season without Matt Ryan for the first time since 2007. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them have similar results to that 2007 team, despite the fact that their current head coach is an actual professional, unlike the person who had the head coach label in 2007. The offensive line is still a huge concern, which doesn’t bode well against a dangerous front four.

Dennis Allen is the head coach of the Saints now. That could result in even more blitzing, which is worrisome for either Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder. Let’s not forget that Jameis Winston tends to play like a five-time All-Pro when he faces the Falcons. Alvin Kamara is also a matchup nightmare, who could do serious damage against an unproven linebacker unit. There are too many mismatches across the board. The Saints are too much for the Falcons in the end. - Allen Strk

Falcons 23, Saints 20

I’ll keep this short and to the point (especially because I’m adding to this after it was originally published). Even though the Saints have the better team on paper, I refuse to ever pick the Falcons to lose to them. I’ll be predicting a win in the Week 15 portion of this roundtable series as well. - Adnan Ikic