New Orleans Saints (projected win total: 8)
The Saints have been fairly consistent the last four seasons under Jim Haslett going 10-6, 7-9, 9-7 and 8-8. Though they've typically fallen apart down the stretch, such was not the case last year when the Saints won seven of their last 11 games. Two close losses to the Panthers (the first by six points and the second by just three points), cost New Orleans a winning record and a possible playoff berth.
Aaron Brooks had a career season last year, completing 59.1 percent of his passes with 24 TDs and just eight interceptions. He did lose 11 fumbles, somewhat mitigating his low interception total. RB Deuce McAlister had a stretch of nine consecutive 100-yard games during a year in which he ran for 1,641 yards and caught 69 passes (think the Saints miss Ricky?).
When not making cell phone calls, Joe Horn had another solid season, catching 78 passes and 10 TDs. If Donte' Stallworth can stay healthy, he'll join Jerome Pathon to give the Saints two solid receivers to go with Horn. TEs Williams and Conwell are both decent pass-catchers and serviceable blockers. The Saints OL seems to make room for Deuce to run, but has allowed 123 sacks over the last three years.
Defensively, the Saints finished 18th in yards allowed and 14th in
scoring. That despite a poor rush defense that ranked 27th in the league by allowing 140.1 YPG and 4.7 YPC! Adding Ohio State DE Will Smith as their No. 1 pick this year gives New Orleans three top picks on its DL.
The secondary doesn't feature any stars, but the whole is better than the sum of its parts. New Orleans overcame a poor rush defense and mediocre pass rush (32 sacks) to finish eighth in passing yards.
After making the postseason during the 2000 campaign in his first year as the team's head coach - plus winning the franchises only playoff game in its history - Haslett's teams are just 24-24 the last three seasons. New Orleans is just 15-17 SU at home under Haslett, a record that has to improve if this team is to make it back over .500 and challenge for the playoffs.
New Orleans gets non-division home games with Seattle, San Francisco, Minnesota, Kansas City and Denver. Non-division road games are at 2003 playoff teams St Louis and Dallas. However, the Saints also visit four-win teams from 2003 in Arizona, San Diego and Oakland.
The Saints can't afford to go worse than .500 in their own division if they hope to improve on last yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s 8-8 mark. I'm not betting on that because Brooks already is being plagued by the injury bug. I'll go ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹ÂœunderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ the eight wins.
The betting line has the Panthers at 9 1/2 wins, the Falcons at 9 wins, the Buccaneers at 9 wins, and the Saints at 8 wins. This guy picks the Falcons and the Buccaneers to go over their projected 9 wins, the Panthers to go under their projected 9 1/2 wins, and the Saints to go under their projected 8 wins. His reasoning is silly seeing how Brooks has not missed a start in his career yet due to injury and the one he has been bothered with won\'t stop him from starting either.
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