Nick Ballistreri previews the New Orleans Saints who are a ready-made contender that has yet to reach the pinnacle.
Each year, the New Orleans Saints enter with high expectations. They have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, a Super Bowl winning coach, a stacked offense, and a talented defense. The list goes on. This team is talented enough to win the whole thing, but the past few seasons have ended with heartbreak. A year after losing in the NFC Championship game to the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints lost a home Wild Card Game to the Minnesota Vikings. They’ll look to finally break through in 2020.
This team starts and ends with Drew Brees. Entering his age 41 season, Brees proved in 2019 that he could still play at a high level. In only 11 games, he was an ultra-efficient game manager who proved he can still make plays. Brees completed over 74% of his passes for 2,979 yards, had 27 touchdown passes and only threw 4 interceptions. He’s still an above-average quarterback in this league, regardless of his age. That being said, he hasn’t been able to get this team over the top.
Let’s put to rest the Alvin Kamara contract situation. The New Orleans Saints are a win-now team, and there is no chance they enter a season with their Super Bowl window wide open without their star running back. Kamara and backup Latavius Murray make for one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. Kamara is an elusive speedster who makes plays in open space, while Murray will run downhill and punish defenders.
Michael Thomas is without a doubt, the best receiver in the NFL. The former 2nd-round pick had a season for the ages in 2019. Thomas caught an absurd 149 passes, for 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. It’s unfair to think that he’ll match his production from a season ago, but he might not have to. The team went out and signed veteran Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason to help shoulder the receiving load, and Jared Cook has proven more than serviceable at the tight end spot. With a solid offensive line, this offense will put up points in bunches.
In 2019, the Saints defense was among the league’s best. They were 13th in points allowed, and 11th in yardage allowed. That puts them in the top 1/3 of the league. They only gave up 30+ points in two games, and held their opponents under 10 three times.
This defense has some stars on it. Cameron Jordan is one of the best defensive lineman in all of the NFL, and he gives opposing tackles fits each game. Jordan has compiled 27.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and added 15.5 alone in 2019. He’s a player that can make life difficult for even the best teams, and is an automatic double team in crunch time.
On the back end, the Saints resigned long-time Eagle Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins is a former Saints star, and he will bring experience and championship pedigree to this team. They have one of the brightest young corners in the game in Marshon Lattimore. The former Ohio State Buckeye has shown the ability to win 1-v-1 matchups on a consistent basis.
This team will be in Super Bowl contention this year. Each year, they’re among the league’s best, and 2020 will be no different. Even in a tough division, I expect them to compete for the top seed in the NFC to secure their first round bye. If their defense can take the next step, they will be hard to beat. The Saints are listed at +1100 to win the Super Bowl, and -125 to win the NFC South.
Prediction: 11-5, NFC South Champions
Although their schedule is among the league’s hardest, it shouldn’t matter for this team. They have a savvy future Hall-of-Famer at quarterback who has weapons galore at his disposal. The division is admittedly tough, with Tampa’s additions and some regression for the Atlanta Falcons. There will be no easy outs for this team, but that just means they’ll be battle tested come January.