As we look toward the 2016 season, there are a lot of questions facing the NFC South. Over the next few weeks, my esteemed colleagues -- Sander Phillipse of Bucs Nation, J.R. Ella from Canal Street Chronicles, and Brian Beversluis of Cat Scratch Reader -- join me to dissect these topics and establish some expectations for the division this season.
Today we move on to the team most universally despised by our readers -- the New Orleans Saints. J.R. Ella of Canal Street Chronicles posed this question to our illustrious group: "There was a period of time, not too long ago, when Drew Brees and the Saints were considered the team to to beat in the NFC South. After back-to-back 7-9 no-playoffs seasons, what do you and your fanbases think of Brees? Listening to the pundits and even a part of the Saints' fanbase, he's either done or close to it. Does he still strike fear in your birdies, kitties or pirates hearts? Or do you now almost welcome the matchup with the Saints?"
Sander Phillipse, Bucs Nation
Drew Brees is certainly still a fearsome quarterback. While the slow decline has been evident, I think most fans lay the blame of recent losses at the feet of the defense and Brees' supporting cast. That seems perfectly fair to me, as Brees is still close to the quarterback he was when the Saints won the Super Bowl. The team as a whole is just a lot worse, and it hasn't been helped by the constant upheaval in personnel. Brees can still destroy defenses when he has a good day, though I think he's gotten a little more turnover-prone and skittish in the face of pressure.
Of course, there will be a point when the Saints have to move on from him. I hope that point comes sooner rather than later, and the Saints' constant cap juggling gives me some hope that that may be the case. The fact that I'm hoping he'll move on should say enough about how good I still think he is, at least for the immediate future.
Brian Beversluis, Cat Scratch Reader
I think generally our fan base understands that the defense has been the issue for the Saints. The Panthers have still had major issues with the Saints in the last three years, splitting 2013 and 2014, and very easily could have dropped a game last season were it not for Josh Norman in the first game and a game winning drive that ended a shootout in the second game. Brees will always be a player that Panthers fans respect, whether they despise him or not.
My personal view point is Brees can win really any game despite the matchup, and his struggles against Carolina have mainly stemmed from either the pass rush wreaking havoc or the offense blowing the doors off the Saints defense. I'm not sure how worth it he is with the price tag he will likely carry, but I still believe Brees is one of the best out there.
Jeanna Thomas, The Falcoholic
Drew Brees has been one of the best quarterbacks in this league for a long time, and if the Falcons had an effective pass rush, I might be a little less concerned about him. Alas, the pass rush has been a weakness for Atlanta for several seasons, so yeah, Brees still scares me a little. I do think he's probably slowing down a bit, but he's really accurate and makes very good decisions with the football, so he's always a factor, particularly if he has adequate protection.
The Saints defense has really been the problem for the past few seasons, so I think as long as the defense improves and the offense is able to keep Brees upright, the Saints are going to be a challenge. Ugh, it feels so gross to say that. Also, much to my chagrin, the Saints got a great target for Brees in rookie Michael Thomas out of The Ohio State University. That should help, whether I like it or not. (I don't.)