NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Kicking off the NFC South are the New Orleans Saints. Scandal and turmoil surrounded the Big Easy last year as the team was unable to fully recuperate from losing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and head coach Sean Payton. They began to catch fire at the end of the season, but it was too little, too late. In 2013, the Saints seem bound for a deep playoff run — if the defense holds up — with the return of Payton to the helm.
The Saints may just be one of the best teams to watch in 2013 on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously, Drew Brees is going to have Brees-like numbers with the aid of a weaponized backfield in Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. Also, Lance Moore and Marques Colston haven’t lost a step. What tends to be the Achilles heel for Brees is an unnecessary amount of interceptions. If this problem is addressed, then expect the Saints to have huge numbers in the regular season.
New Orleans wanted to make defense a priority in this year’s draft, and they may have made all the right moves — but only time will tell. The main upgrades that they acquired were cornerback Kenny Vaccaro and nose tackle Jonathan Jenkins. Even from an outsider’s standpoint, it was obvious that the Saints defense often kept them out of games. If the defense makes a drastic improvement — which is a very bold ‘if’ — then New Orleans will be a scary team to say the least. But, the main upgrades that they made were draft picks, so there can’t be too many leaps and bounds for them in the future.
I have the Saints going 11-5 for the 2013 regular season, however I cannot see them making much out of the playoffs come December. They have a fairly easy season, with the most challenging game coming from the 49ers on Week 11. They should play very well in inter-divisional play due to the lack of talent in the South; expect them to split games with Atlanta. The Saints will be playing for their pride in 2013, much of it being stripped away by commissioner Roger Goodell. Expect them to make a big splash in the regular season, but not withhold that energy going into the playoffs.