The New Orleans Saints (11-5 in 2013) will kickoff their 2014 regular season with a trip to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons (4-12 in 2013). The game will start at 12:00 p.m. CT.
Sean Payton enters his ninth season as head coach of the Saints with a group that returns nine offensive starters and nine defensive starters, including five players total who made the 2014 Pro Bowl. New Orleans' offense and defense both ranked fourth in the NFL in 2013 in total net yards. QB Drew Brees' regular cache of offensive weapons, including TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston and RBs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas was bolstered in the offseason with the addition of first round draft pick WR Brandin Cooks. The group will perform alongside the Pro Bowl duo of guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs on the offensive line.
ILB Curtis Lofton, the club's leading tackler in 2013 with 139 stops and returning defensive team captain, anchors the team's linebackers. Returning Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan and OLB Junior Galette, who was voted as a defensive team captain for the first time, head the club's aggressive pass rush. An already solid secondary that includes CB Keenan Lewis and rising star S Kenny Vaccaro is joined by unrestricted free agent acquisition S Jairus Byrd, who has posted 22 interceptions since 2009.
The special teams units are led by P Thomas Morstead, who has posted a franchise-best 40.7 net punting average over the past five seasons. ILB Ramon Humber who has posted 34 special teams tackles over the past four seasons with the Saints is the other special teams captain along with Morstead.
New Orleans will open the season on the road for the first time since 2011 and for the 14th time overall. They will be seeking their first victory to open the season on the road since a 19-14 win at Cleveland on Sept. 10, 2006. While the Falcons are the Saints' most common opponent, leading the series 46-43, this will be the first time they have opened their season in Atlanta since 1981. New Orleans will be looking to repeat the momentum created in the 2013 season opener at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when they defeated the Falcons 23-17, serving as the springboard to returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence and notching the franchise's first postseason road victory.
This week in the NFC South: In addition to the Saints-Falcons clash, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CT.