There’s a lot to dislike about the New Orleans Saints. From Sean Payton’s childish shenanigans to Michael Thomas’ willingness to engage in a social media war with anyone that doesn’t think he’s the best WR on the planet, there are reasons nobody likes that team. Because they are the Falcons’ most hated rival, it’s always worth keeping an eye on the Saints, both before and during the season. So let’s take a quick look at the state of Payton’s team at this point in the offseason.
The Saints won the NFC South in 2019, turning in a 13-3 season for the second consecutive year. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater kept the Saints afloat while Drew Brees rode the pine with a thumb injury. Their successful year even included a win over the Falcons on Thanksgiving Day. Lucky for us, the Saints got bounced from the playoffs by the Vikings for the second time in three years, this time in overtime. Once again their fans insisted the one and done playoff run had absolutely nothing to do with their team and everything to do with some kind of conspiracy against their team, which makes total sense.
Key offseason additions
Malcolm Jenkins: Jenkins makes his return to New Orleans and will help anchor their secondary. The Saints defense didn’t necessarily need an infusion of talent in the secondary, but Jenkins’ veteran leadership will be invaluable. That’s why they handed him a 4-year deal including $16.25 million in guarantees.
Emmanuel Sanders: Much like Jenkins, Sanders’ veteran leadership will serve the Saints well in 2020. Sanders has played in 11 playoff games and is no stranger to postseason success. What’s more, with Sanders joining the Saints WR room, Brees may not have to throw 5 yard slants to Michael Thomas all game, artificially inflating his production in the process.
Key offseason departures
Larry Warford: The Saints elected to walk away from Warford, a 3-time Pro Bowler, after what was his worst year in New Orleans. It was a necessary move, inasmuch as it gave them the cap flexibility to fill out the rest of their roster. That said, they will need to slot in a new starting right guard. And notwithstanding his lapses in pass protection, Warford’s run blocking chops were still above-average.
Teddy Bridgewater: The Saints had arguably the best backup quarterback in the league last year. But for Bridgewater, their 2019 season could’ve gone completely off the rails in Brees’ absence. But Bridgewater is far too talented to stand on the sideline and his time in New Orleans was never going to last.
Key games on the schedule
On paper, the Saints have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this year, with their biggest tests coming after a Week 6 bye. That said, there’s always plenty of parity in the NFL, so who knows how their season will really shake out. Three games caught my attention.
Week 10 vs. the 49ers: The Saints will play host to the defending NFC Champions in a game that will be a good test Payton’s for defense. Hopefully Kyle Shanahan can use his sorcery to outmatch Payton.
Week 13 @ Atlanta: The importance of this matchup really depends on whether the Falcons can return to form in 2020. Assuming we are at least competitive by that point in the season, the Saints will want to go into Atlanta and walk away with a victory, particularly if the division is still up for grabs. The Falcons and the Saints will play two weeks earlier in New Orleans as well.
Week 15 vs. the Chiefs: This is arguably the most challenging game on the Saints’ schedule. The defending Super Bowl Champions appear built to last, so if the Saints can somehow pull off a win, it will send a message to the rest of the league headed into playoffs.
As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t foresee definitive regression from this team in 2020. They have an easy schedule and their offseason was far from the train wreck we hoped it’d be.
What say you, Falcoholics? How will 2020 play out for the Saints? Discuss!