NFL Hype Check: Brees can carry the New Orleans Saints to the playoffs again

After losing out to a miracle last year, our resident NFL boffin looks at what the 2018/19 season holds for the New Orleans Saints…

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Ahead of the 2018 NFL season, we’re bringing you a series outlining which teams are getting too much hype and what rosters are sneakily going under the radar.

Disclaimer: I hate your favourite team, regardless of who they are. Please use this rationale if it makes you feel better after hearing about how your team aren’t half as good as they think they are.

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New Orleans Saints

Projected Win Total: 9

While there is definitely a house of the rising sun in New Orleans, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the sun is very much setting on Drew Brees’ career in the NFL. So, the question will typically linger – can the Saints give ‘Breesus’ the ultimate send-off?

The Saints won 11 games last year. They had seven Pro Bowlers and two All-Pros.

They’ve lost no key pieces and added depth in Benjamin Watson, Shane Vereen, Kurt Coleman and Patrick Robinson.

Granted, they’re in a tough division and I expect each of them to be over .500 for the coming year, but they’ve got depth, a marquee edge rusher and a quarterback who’s comfortable in his scheme.

Alvin Kamara was the breakout star of last season. He’s the latest in the long line of feature backs being used in the passing game to great effect as they typically get taken on by opposing linebackers and safeties who don’t have the speed or size to match-up against them.

When you add the seriously undervalued Mark Ingram to make a pair, they’re one of the best rushing offenses in the league.

This is where Drew Brees flourishes – on play-action throws – which, as we know, depend on a convincing run game that brings linebackers and deeper defenders closer to the line of scrimmage, leaving zones or the overtop completely free to run into for receivers.

They will miss the presence of Coby Fleener as Brees doesn’t have a notable tight end to go to in big passing situations, but they’re not likely to fail in their designing of a scheme that counteracts that because Pete Carmichael has a brilliant mind.

Linebacking has been a weak point of this team for a while now, and they’ve done little to improve that. It doesn’t really bode well in a division that features Greg Olsen, but they boast one of the best corners in the business in Marshon Lattimore, and now bringing pack Patrick Robinson to the team that drafted him originally gives them a legitimate shutdown from the slot.

Where they’ll flourish is in sub packages. Their safety depth is the best in the NFL: Kurt Coleman, Marcus Williams and Von Bell. Add in Ken Crawley to play opposite Lattimore and you start thinking that throwing to tight ends may actually be the only way to move the ball effectively against this Dennis Allen-led defence.

They were rightly lauded for their 2017 draft class. It’s very rare that any team gets that much productivity from their rookies immediately, but they managed it.

Typically, they’ve gone and completely made a mess of this year’s process.

The organisation gave up far too much to jump up and get Marcus Davenport – a very raw, limited pass rusher. The remainder of their picks don’t inspire either – bar perhaps getting value out of Will Clapp out of LSU who plays center.

Verdict

Saying they’ll win their home games is always a safe bet for New Orleans, so we’ll give them 6-2. Pittsburgh come to town, as do the Rams and the Falcons.

They do travel to the Giants and the Vikings though – meaning 4-4 looks more realistic on the road.

The one thing remains here – they’ve enough talent to keep games close. And in close games, the experienced quarterback usually wins. Brees will carry this team into the playoffs with his IQ and deadly weapons.

Underrated: 10 wins.

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