Best Ever?

Saints enter 2019 with, arguably, best team in franchise history
The New Orleans Saints kickoff the 2019 season with a February trip to Miami, home of Super Bowl LIV, and site of their Super Bowl XLIV win, as their ultimate goal. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

 

Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat say they gonna beat them Saints?

That’s the question many have as the New Orleans Saints enter the 2019 season. For the past two seasons, the Black & Gold have been one of the NFL’s best teams, and they seem poised to remain among the league’s elite teams.

While some prognosticators – including Pro Football Talk and Colin Cowherd – believe the Saints will have a dip in performance this season, gamblers – the folks who put their money where their mouth is – think the Saints have the ability to be the last team standing when the season comes to an end in February.

The naysayers believe the Saints are due for an emotional meltdown after suffering through extremely difficult back-to-back bouncing from the playoffs. They believe division rivals, namely the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, will take the NFC South and have, shockingly, not picked the Saints to make the playoffs. Why? They believe the team must be hanging on to the disappointment of previous years and won’t be able to move on and focus on the future.

Cow patties!

If that was the case, the team would not have been able to earn the top seed in the NFC last season and – if not for a blown pass interference call by the officials – should have been the conference’s representative in the Super Bowl.

While the Saints lost some recognizable names in the offseason, namely running back Mark Ingram, center Max Unger, tight end Benjamin Watson, defensive end Alex Okafor, and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, the team picked up players – running back Latavius Murray, tight end Jared Cook, rookie center Erik McCoy, and defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who should be able to replace them with little to no drop off in production.

That’s why SportsLine.com‘s top pro football analyst R.J. White, who has been correct on more than 60 percent of his NFL picks the past two seasons, has the Saints as 8-1 favorites to lift the Lombardi Trophy, behind only the AFC’s New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, both with 6-1 odds, and tied with the Los Angeles Rams.

While there has been concern about quarterback Drew Brees’ obvious dip in production after Thanksgiving last year, he, his teammates and coaches do not think the lower than expected numbers will carryover into 2019.

They can prove doubters wrong with a strong start, beginning with the season opener Monday night against the Houston Texans. The Saints have been notorious for slow starts – going 0-5 in their last five opening day games.

Look for receivers Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Tre’Quan Smith, running backs Alvin Kamara and Murray and TE Cook to diversify the Saints’ offensive options.

On the defensive side of the ball, the main question is can the squad continue to show the improvement it displayed week over week last season. The unit finished the season ranked 14th in the NFL in total defense, giving up 22.1 points and 349.1 yards per game.

The Saints have depth on the D-Line and could be the bedrock of an exciting unit. The linebacking corps will be led by Demario Davis, A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone. The better the line plays, the better the linebackers play. The run defense is stout. Watch for the pass defense to improve. The Saints’ secondary has been a revolving door since it won the Super Bowl a decade ago. But the unit returns mostly in tact. They had trouble with the deep ball early last season, but got better as the year progressed. With experience, it’s hoped that the DBs will improve and create more opportunities for turnovers.

The Black and Gold kickoff the 2019 season with a February trip to Miami, home of Super Bowl LIV, and site of their Super Bowl XLIV win, as their ultimate goal. This Saints team may be as good – if not better than – the 2009 and 2011 squads. If it is – and remains healthy – this could be a special year.

 

 

 

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