Cantor Gaming, arguably on of the most respected sportsbooks in Las Vegas, has released its highly anticipated NFL season win totals. The New Orleans Saints are slated for a bounce back year, after last year's turmoil filled season, as their season win total checks in at 9.5 wins (-115). New Orleans is at +1000 Odds to win the NFC Championship and +2000 Odds to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Consistency never materialized for the Saints as they dealt with the fallout from Bountygate. They didn't win a game in September, starting 0-4 for the first time since 2007. By Week 11, however, this team seemed poised to avoid missing the playoffs. Despite their poor start, the Saints won five of their next six, improving to 5-5 with six games left to play.
At times New Orleans seemed like a playoff team; it had one of the league's best offenses, ranking third in points and second in yards. Other times, not so much. It also had one of the worst defenses, ranking 31st in points and 32nd in yards (their 7,042 yards allowed was the worst all time mark) allowed under Spagnuolo, who was fired in late January. The first two games of December were a microcosm of the season. The Saints were blown out by the Giants, 52-27, in Week 14 but thumped the Buccaneers, 41-0, the following Sunday. The Saints finished the year 7-9.
Drew Brees led the league in passing yards (5,177) and touchdowns (43) for the second straight season, and with Sean Payton returning to the sideline in 2013, he should only get better. The quarterback threw 19 interceptions last year, tied for most in the NFL with Tony Romo. The NFL might be a passing league, but defenses still need to be kept guessing. Mark Ingram led the Saints with a paltry 602 rushing yards last season, followed by Pierre Thomas (473), Darren Sproles (244) and Chris Ivory (217). This wasn't merely a result of the Saints falling behind and needing to throw the ball to overcome large deficits. In the first half of games last season, they ran the ball a lower percentage of time than any other team.
The defense is another matter altogether, but moving to a 3-4 should help. Restricted free agent Junior Gallette could really surprise as a pass rusher under Ryan and former first-round pick Cameron Jordan makes sense as an end in this defense, even if it might hinder his sack totals. New Orleans could stand to find a blocker-occupying nose tackle for their new alignment, but Brodrick Bunkley can make do if no pops in free agency or the draft. The secondary needs a boost after giving up 4,681 yards last season, the second most in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Patrick Robinson gave up a league-high 1,071 yards when in primary coverage, most among NFL cornerbacks. It's a strong free agent class at the position, but the Saints may not be in a position to spend on a veteran.
The Saints will rebound, if only because the offense will have the checks-and-balances system that Payton brings along with Brees on the offensive end. Defensively, things can't get worse. Like, it's impossible. Giving Ryan a few more weapons through free agency or the draft could go a long way toward making this team a viable contender again this season.
Sep. 8 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Sep. 15 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m.
Sep. 22 vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1 p.m.
Sep. 30 vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:40 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Oct. 13 at New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m.
Oct. 27 vs. Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Nov. 3 at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Nov. 10 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Nov. 21 at Atlanta Falcons, 8:25 p.m.
Dec. 2 at Seattle Seahawks, 8:40 p.m.
Dec. 8 vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Dec. 15 at St. Louis Rams, 1 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Dec. 29 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Pick: The Saints offense will be hard to stop this year, but their defense was just so bad last year that I don't see them being god enough to win the Title. Having said that I feel they can at least get to 10 wins and challenge for the South title. They are expected to have at least 9 wins, but having Payton on the sidelines should be good for an extra win or two.
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