Football is finally back, and the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints aren't taking their time wading into the shallows. The NFC South foes will dive into a heavyweight showdown right off the bat. Week 1 may seem early to start talking about playoff implications, but it's certainly possible that these two teams could be separated by just a game in the divisional race come season's end.
With head coach Sean Payton suspended for all of last season for his role in the bounty scandal, the 2012 Saints finished below .500 for the first time since 2007 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With Payton roaming the sidelines once again, New Orleans will look to return to form. Offensively, Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham should have no problems leading a high-powered attack, but a defense just one year removed from giving up the most yardage in NFL history will need to show drastic improvement.
The Falcons return most of the major pieces from their 13-3 performance last season that saw them reach the NFC Championship for the first time since 2004. Matt Ryan has increased his touchdown total in each of his first five seasons and will have a good chance to improve on his 32 scores from last year with Roddy White and Julio Jones pairing to make one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the league.
Sunday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Atlanta: WGCL CBS 46
New Orleans: Cox Sports Television, WVUE 8 FOX
NFL Sunday Ticket Online, NFL Red Zone Online and Verizon subscribers can watch games live with the NFL Mobile app (subscription required). NFL Game Pass offers live online broadcasts to users outside the USA.
Saints: WWL 870 AM/105.3 FM
Falcons: 790 AM/ 94.1 FM