I fully expected Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to get right back in the saddle after their Bounty Gate Scandal and the down year that came with it. And they did, cruising to an 11-5 record and a playoff victory. They were dominant at home, going undefeated, but this teams Achilles heel is their woeful road performances.
6. New Orleans Saints (2013 Record: 11-5)
In the Superdome, this team is scary. Outscoring their opponents an average of 34 to 16, but that dominance has not translated on the road where they scored an average of just 18 points per game, dropping all five of their losses on the road. That has to change if the Saints are going to compete for a chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in 2014.
Key Losses: Charles Brown, Brian De La Puente, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Lance Moore, Jed Collins, Malcolm Jenkins, Tom Johnson
Key Acquisitions: Jairus Byrd, Champ Bailey, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Goodwin, Erik Lorig
The Saints lost some talent to free agency, but also gained some talent. There is an assumption by some that the defense is a weakness for this team, but that is a false assumption. They gave up just 19 points per game, which was fourth best in the NFL last season. On my rankings, I have the Saints fourth best in the league, which aligns with Rotoworld's Evan Silva naming the Saints as the fourth best roster in the NFL. Their success really comes down to how well the offense plays on the road, because that is where the problem has come from in those games.
Unlike last season, the Saints 2014 regular season schedule looks a bit easier. However, in a twist of irony, the games I consider easier are road matchups. Not only that, they get five of those eight road matchups earlier in the season when the weather isn't likely to cause problems. This could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Saints to reclaim the NFC South title and a first round Bye in January. Though the group has them ranked lower, I got this team winning twelve games in 2014.
Projected Record: 12-4
Kyle: When you have an elite quarterback, you are always in the Super Bowl conversation. The Saints are still looking to get back, and they’re doing a good job of keeping their window open.
Jon: I’ve always been a Drew Brees guy. The best thing that ever happened to him was when John Lynch strip-sacked him in 2005. Brees fumbled the ball on the play and injured his shoulder while trying to recover it. San Diego figured he’d never fully recover and moved on with Philip Rivers. Since then, San Diego has gone 4-4 in the postseason, never going farther than the Divisional Round. New Orleans, meanwhile, has gone 5-3 in the playoffs, winning Super Bowl XLIV (over Peyton Manning, incidentally) along the way. You do your thing, Drew. And we’re laughing at you, San Diego.
Mike: If Champ Bailey is a starter on defense things are going to get ugly for that secondary.
Ian: New Orleans: fabulous city, great music, good team.
Laurie: I like Brandin Cooks, especially after his cool G+ interview with the MHR staff, and I think Drew Brees is going to like him a lot too. And Jairus Byrd was a good pick-up, so they should be a dominating NFC team again.
Topher: The Saints are the Saints, well coached and have Drew Brees at quarterback. Their defense also improved under their new defensive coordinator. There is no reason this team can’t compete for the Super Bowl in the NFC besides maybe issues at RB.
Jacob: The Saints, despite being a solid team on the field, have managed to royally screw up their relationship with star TE Jimmy Graham off the field. Graham is essential to this offense, and New Orleans is going to have to find a way to have him in the lineup come opening kickoff. That aside, the Saints added a true weapon in Brandin Cooks, and a big, physical corner in Stanley Jean-Baptiste through the draft, both of whom should become immediate contributors. This team is poised to win the NFC South again, but will face stiff competition from the rest of the division, and could see themselves out of the playoffs with a couple slip-ups. 10-12 wins.
Pete: I love me some Saints. They are my adopted #2 team (although there is still a gap between them and the Broncos so large that a twin planet earth could be seen before they are). Anyways, back on topic. I love the Saints. Their offense is dynamic and their defense is finally catching up. I love Champ Bailey as I’m sure you all know from reading my tribute to Champ article. The only criticism I have is that they can be somewhat predictable on offense. A bit more ingenuity on offense, and this team could give Champ yet another shot at the Lombardi Trophy.