Welcome to “This Is Totally Your Year,” our overly optimistic preview of the 2014-15 NFL season for all 32 teams. We’ve broken down why every team — yes, even your team (and yes, even your team, Rams fans) — will win it all this year. We’ll also give some reasons for pessimism and even estimate an actual season prediction. Next up: The New Orleans Saints.
It has been a few years since He finally rewarded the Saints faithful with a Super Bowl win, just days before Mardi Gras in 2010. God is ready to smile on the Saints, once again.
God is ready to smile on the Saints, once again. It has been a few years since He finally rewarded the Saints faithful with a Super Bowl win, just days before Mardi Gras in 2010.
Now, here we are five season later, with Sean Payton back from his 2012 purgatory, and the Saints are suddenly a team with a monster defense (now that Rob Ryan turned them into ballhawks and a torrid pass rush).
Everything’s coming up black and gold!
Scoring’s a Brees For the Saints
Led by one of the top four quarterbacks in the league (along with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, I’ll let you argue about the order of those four), the Saints have a ridiculous passing game. Last season, for the first time in NFL history, Drew Brees completed at least 25 passes in 10 consecutive games. He also threw for multiple touchdowns in 21 home games, which is another NFL record. No other quarterback in NFL history has thrown for more 300-yard/4-TD games than Brees’ 24 and his sixth straight seasons of 30 touchdown passes is another NFL record. (Shout out to AthlonSports.com for those stats!)
… and the Dolphins preferred Daunte Culpepper, while the Chargers chose Philips Rivers.
The running game has taken a hit, as super-utility man Darren Sproles is now playing for the Eagles, which means the Saints are left with Pierre Thomas (another great pass-catching back), Mark Ingram (a huge disappointment) and Khiry Robinson, who could blow past both of them to be the regular starting halfback. Ingram is in a contract year, which should pull something out of him, and Robinson has plenty of power to move the line of scrimmage.
Luckily, the Saints don’t care to move the ball on the ground. Only a handful of teams ran the ball as few times per game as the Saints (24.4), but most of those other teams were bad offensively. That means they didn’t have as many plays on offense.
In New Orleans, above average wide receivers are nothing new. While Marques Colston is considered the No. 1 WR, it’s really only in name, since tight end Jimmy Graham is this team’s best player not named Brees. Graham even tried to get paid like a wide receiver this offseason, as he played 67 percent of his snaps lined up wide last season. But an arbitrator shut him down like a Fantasy Football owner that owned him as a keeper tight end.
Brees also has a very good young pair of receivers that look like the future starting set for the next few years – Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks. While the offseason publicity has been all over Cooks, considering the Oregon State product led the nation in receiving last year with 1,730 yards. One interesting note about both of these guys is that the both caught 32 passes of 20 yards or more last season – with Cooks in college and Stills in his rookie season in New Orleans. Their ability to take the top off the coverage will allow Graham and Colston to see more room underneath and down the seam.
The offensive line is … well, not good. Did I mention the quarterback and wide receivers!?!
Dominating Defense, Like Old School Saints
The Saints defense was tough up front, with excellent pass rushers in defensive end Cameron Jordan and outside linebacker Junior Galette. The Saints ranked fourth in the NFL with 49 sacks last year, and they held opponents to fewer than 195 passing yards per game (only the Seahawks were stingier against the pass). With an offense that has the ability to get up early on teams, opponents are forced to go to the air earlier than they’d like, which makes the Saints’ pass defense numbers even more impressive.
The secondary also got recharged this offseason as they signed free agent Jairus Byrd, who was considered one of the top defensive backs on the market. They also brought in veteran corner, and likely future Hall of Famer, Champ Bailey.
A great defense got better, and while this amazing Saints offense lost Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, they’re getting younger – and possibly better.
Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona is scheduled for February 1, and Mardi Gras will be in full swing headed toward Fat Tuesday on Feb. 17. Is there any doubt that every parade, from Metairie to Magazine Street, will have a Saints player as its king?
Reason for pessimism:
In all honesty, the Saints will have to start winning some games on the road. They were 3-5 away from the Superdome, despite going 8-0 at home.
Actual season prediction:
The Saints will be better on the road, and still be very good at home, but probably not undefeated again. A one-win improvement is certainly a possibility, as the Falcons, Buccaneers and Panthers are all trying to fill holes before their ships sink. A 12-4 record is a possibility, and they’re the favorites to win the NFC South. No team has ever repeated, and the Panthers are nowhere near as good as last year’s 12-4 record indicates.
This is totally your year, New Orleans Saints!