New Orleans Saints have their share of doubters for this season
We're exactly a month away from the official start of Saints training camp, 30 short days until we mercifully start talking ball instead of law.
Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, left, will have to miss eight games this season but said this is the most talented Saints team he has been around in his seven seasons with the franchise.
It's always exciting to see the shelves of your local newsstand stuffed with preseason annuals. This year perhaps more than ever, the Saints and their loyal legion of fans are eager for the start of the season.
This year's Saints might be the greatest unknown in NFL history. Who knows what to expect in the wake of the NFL bounty scandal?
Preseason prognostications are always dicey propositions. Add the tumultuous offseason and unprecedented sanctions, and the Saints become the wildest of wild cards, a team talented enough to rank among the league's elite yet troubled enough to be counted out.
So many questions remain unanswered.
How will the loss of Coach Sean Payton for a full year affect the game-planning and play-calling?
Can the team weather the first half of the season when most of the suspensions will be in effect?
Who will replace assistant head coach Joe Vitt when he departs for the first six games?
What effect, if any, will quarterback Drew Brees' absence from the offseason program have on the offense and team as a whole?
And perhaps most important, what intangible effect, if any, will the entire sordid affair have on the team during the season?
It seems likely the loss of so many key leaders will have some kind residual effect on the team. But how much? And are the Saints talented enough to overcome it?
Vitt called these Saints the most talented team he has seen in his seven seasons with the franchise.
Indeed, 19 starters return from arguably the best team in the NFL at the end of last season. The Saints were one play from hosting the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons. They retain the most dominant home-field advantage in football, and they appear to have added significant upgrades on defense.
So, it's possible the Saints still are just too good for most teams on a weekly basis. But most are convinced Bountygate will exact some kind of intangible toll on the Saints over the course of 16 games.
Veteran ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton crunched the numbers on the entire NFL season and predicted the Saints to go 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
"I just question whether the Saints can win the close games as well as they have in the past," Clayton wrote in his ESPN.com mailbag Monday. "They aren't as good along the offensive line with the loss of Carl Nicks. Their defense is in transition after the departure of Gregg Williams. Plus, the division is better. The Saints have a tough task ahead just to make the playoffs."
Clayton is far from the lone dissenter.
Pro Football Weekly picked the Saints to win the NFC South but ranked them only ninth overall and fifth in the NFC in its preseason power rankings.
The editors at Athlon Magazine were even more skeptical, ranking the Saints eighth in their NFC power rankings and picking them to miss the playoffs.
Full disclosure: I wrote the Saints team preview for the Athlon yearbook and predicted an 11-5 campaign and NFC South title. But the editors weren't swayed and made their own call in the overall league rankings, saying "without Payton the Saints won't be the Saints this season."
ESPN NFL analysts Marcellus Wiley and Herm Edwards agreed. On the network's NFC South preview special this month, they picked the Saints to finish third in the division behind the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.
Not everyone is a doubter.
The Vegas sharpies still believe in the Saints, even if they forecast a slight falloff from last season's 13-3 campaign. The Saints' over-under win total has been set at 10 wins, lumping them in a six-team group just below the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, who lead with prognosticated 12-win totals.
Former Cleveland Browns and New York Jets coach Eric Mangini picked the Saints to win the division, largely because of Brees.
"Their defense is in transition after the departure of Gregg Williams. Plus, the division is better."
Yeah ok. Our defense was in transition not to long ago..how did that work out!! Stupid turtle man!!
And just how exactly is the division better?
If Nicks was the key to the Saints success, would the Saints have let him go that easily AND to a division team?
The Falcons lost Curtis Lofton to the Saints, plus the Saints have dramatically improved their LB core thru FA.
Ben Grubbs is considered by many to be the 2nd best OL behind Nicks, and can do virtually anything Nicks can do, and some things better.
The Saints lost Robert Meachem but have as deep a WR group as there is in football.
The Saints still have Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram.
The Saints replaced GW with arguably the 2nd best defensive mind in football.
There will be some negative effects of not having Payton on the sidelines; there has to be, he is the driving force behind the Saints succes.
But Carmichael and Brees will keep the Saints eyes on the prize!
Well show them! Who Dat!!
This is the ship that SP built, and he trained all these guys. It will continue to sail smoothly with Sean watching from the pier. SB? I dunno, but I still think ourSaints will win the division.
They said our defense was in transition in 2009
They said we couldn't match the colts speed in the Super Bowl
They said no team that lost their final 3 games has gone on to win the Super Bowl
Is it just me or did we prove all of them points wrong Aswell, go ahead and doubt us but I cant wait for a Super Bowl in our city with our fans!!
"Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, left, will have to miss eight games this season"
"Who will replace assistant head coach Joe Vitt when he departs for the first six games?"
Scratches head...? huh
"Can the team weather the first half of the season when most of the suspensions will be in effect?"
You mean the suspended players that have been replaced with upgrades?
"Veteran ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton crunched the numbers on the entire NFL season and predicted the Saints to go 9-7 and miss the playoffs."
When you not only quote John Clayton, but use him as the pillar of your argument you lose all credibility.
What the hell is Athalon magazine?
Herm Edwards... Worse than referencing John Clayton
Vegas is where the real analysts are.... Seriously, those cats livelihood and welfare ride on their accuracy..They do not make statements just to get people to read their webpage.
Brees alone will throw 6-7 W's. The defense would have to totally suck not to get a few more W's and I don't see that happening. They will get it together enough to make the playoffs.
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