Saints Favorites for Super Bowl, Again

ESPN announces high expectations for this Saints season

ILLUSTRATION BY TONY HEALEY

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.


 

The 2020 NFL season is, no doubt, going to be remarkable: An ongoing pandemic, social unrest and a charged election year environment hitting at the same time will do that.

What’s not different, in terms of the NFL so far, is the expectation that the New Orleans Saints will, again, be one of the best teams in the league. The team entered the 2020 league year with few holes and has been able to use the draft and free agency to bolster its championship-caliber roster.

ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI), its prediction model for the NFL, has the Saints rated as the fourth-best team in the league and second-best team in their conference. But there is an interesting caveat. Despite their rankings, the sports network believes the Black & Gold will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

ESPN’s FPI has the AFC West’s Chiefs ranked as the best team in the NFL. They are expected to win 11.2 games and have a 21% chance to win the next Super Bowl. The AFC North’s Ravens are second with 11.0 wins and a 17% chance at the championship.

With 10.2 projected wins, San Francisco is ranked as the third-best team in the NFL (best in the NFC) and has been given a 12% chance of winning their sixth Lombardi.

Here’s where it gets weird.

The Saints are ranked fourth, yet they’re expected to match the 49ers’ 10.2 game win total and have a 13% chance to win Super Bowl LV.

While ESPN believes the ’Niners have the better team, the “worldwide leader in sports” thinks the Saints’ schedule is easier. They give New Orleans a 59% chance of winning the NFC South and an 83% chance of making the playoffs and San Francisco a 53% chance of claiming the NFC West and 81% chance of postseason play.

With offseason movement adding off-field drama that will match on-field action, the NFC South is going to be interesting.

Despite six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady — who will be 43 years old when the 2020 season kicks off — moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, ESPN believes the Saints will extend their NFC South reign to four straight years. Brady’s addition to the division and his horse race with Saints QB Drew Brees to secure several career records before their playing days come to an end (Brees, 41, leads Brady in career touchdown passes, 547 to 541, and passing yards, 77,416 to 74,571) will, no doubt, add extra excitement to the season.

With 9.1 predicted wins and a 63% chance to make the playoffs, the network ranks the Bucs as the eighth-best team in the NFL and gives them a 3.6% of becoming Super Bowl champions. The archrival Atlanta Falcons, ranked 18th, are expected to win 7.5 games, giving them a 31% chance of making the postseason and a 0.7% chance of winning a ring. Teddy Bridgewater, who served as the beloved backup quarterback for the Saints the past two seasons, took the starting job in Carolina. ESPN thinks the Panthers’ rebuild will be daunting, ranking them 29th out of 32 teams, predicting 5.6 wins and giving them a 7% chance to make the playoffs and 0.0 chance to win the Super Bowl.

I think the Saints will win at least 10 of the games on their schedule – Bucs, @Raiders, @Lions, @Chargers, Panthers, @Bears, Falcons, @Broncos, @Falcons and @Panthers. As far as their other six games, they have the luck of having, arguably, their four hardest games against the Packers, 49ers, Chiefs and Vikings at home and the Eagles and Bucs on the road. Domefield advantage could help them claim the majority of those contests.

Kickoff times will also play an important factor. The Saints are scheduled to play 11 games in either Sunday- or Monday-night primetime, during the nationally-broadcast Sunday-afternoon games, or on a holiday (Christmas Day vs. Minnesota). With the eyes of fans across the country upon them, the Saints will ensure they put on command performances.

The last three seasons have been amazing, but ultimately resulted in horrific playoff exits. However, the team has retained focus and seemingly improved. The Saints are now on the threshold of what could be a historic season.

Just one question remains: Are you ready for some football?