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Michael Thomas active as Saints seek 1-0 start against rival Falcons

In a season chalked with expectations, the Saints enter as five and a half point favorites in their season opener.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints will start off the Dennis Allen era with one of their offensive cornerstones on the field for the first time in more than a season.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas, despite being listed as questionable throughout the week with a hamstring injury, will play, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith, defensive back Paulson Adebo, running back/special teams ace Dwayne Washington, tight end Nick Vannett, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon, and guard Wyatt Davis are inactive for Sunday's game, according to WWL-TV Saints Analyst Nick Underhill.

The Falcons only had two players listed on their injury report, wide receiver Drake London and cornerback Darren Hall. Both will play, according to the team. Wide receiver Damiere Byrd, running back Tyler Allgeier, linebackers DeAngelo Malone and Nick Kwiatkoski, and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga are all inactive for the Falcons.

The New Orleans Saints enter their first season of the Dennis Allen era with high expectations. The team is seeking to build off its tumultuous 2021 campaign that saw them just barely miss the postseason, finishing above .500 at 9-8 despite using an NFL-record 58 different starters over the course of the season.

The offseason was eventful for the Saints. Longtime coach Sean Payton retired in January, leaving the team in position to make its first head coaching hire since 2006. The team ultimately chose Allen, who had been serving as the team's defensive coordinator since 2015.

While free agency did see the Saints lose All-Pro left tackle and team captain Terron Armstead, as well as veteran safeties Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins, the team did make a number of key signings to mitigate the losses- most notably Louisiana natives safety Tyrann Mathieu and wide receiver Jarvis Landry. The team was also able to re-sign quarterback Jameis Winston to a two-year contract that will keep him in the starting role for at least the 2022 season.

The team selected five players in the 2022 NFL Draft, including a pair of offensive difference makers in the first round in Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave and Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning. Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor was taken in the second round, and is expected to make an impact in short order as well.

On the opposite sideline, the Atlanta Falcons are in what appears to be a total team rebuild. The team traded longtime quarterback and former NFL MVP Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in March, occurring not long after wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season after the NFL found that Ridley had gambled on games, including Falcons games.

Days after the Ryan trade, the Falcons signed former Tennessee Titans and Oakland raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota to a two-year contract. The team was also able to re-sign offensive playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson after he briefly flirted with free agency.

In the Draft, the Falcons made eight picks. The team selected Southern California wide receiver Drake London in the first round and a pair of linebackers in the second round in Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie and Montana State's Troy Andersen.

Perhaps their most notable pick, the team selected University of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round. Ridder was the second quarterback taken in the draft, and there is a belief that he will see playing time before the season ends as the team evaluates him as their potential quarterback of the future.

Sunday's game will mark the ninth time the Saints and Falcons have opened the Season against each other. The Saints are 1-7 in openers against the Falcons, with their lone win coming in the 2013 season opener when they topped the defending division champion Falcons 23-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints are 5.5-point favorites, according to oddsmakers. Kickoff is set for noon.

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