NFL New Orleans Saints

10 Players that will Lead the New Orleans Saints to the 2013 NFL Playoffs

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10 Players that can Lead the New Orleans Saints to the Playoffs

New Orleans Saints
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After finishing 7-9 last season, the New Orleans Saints are looking to get back to the playoffs next season. The team will look a lot different than it did a year ago and they will have an important person back at the helm. Head coach Sean Payton will return after his season long suspension following the alleged bounty scandal in New Orleans.

Payton wasted no time in making some big changes. The biggest change made was announcing that the Saints would switch from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 scheme. In addition to the switch, Payton fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and replaced him with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The major thing the Saints will need to improve on next season is their defense, and after last season the defense could only improve.

While defense may be the biggest change for the Saints, one thing that has been a constant with this team is their dynamic offense. Quarterback Drew Brees leads one of the best offenses in the NFL, and the Saints’ offense needs to be clicking on all cylinders if the team wants to make a return to the playoffs.

Brees obviously figures to be a big part of the Saints’ success next season, but it will take an entire team effort to get back to the playoffs. The Saints lost some coaches and players so far in the offseason and the new additions will have to step up next season. Let’s take a look at ten players that will lead the Saints to the 2013 NFL Playoffs.

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10. Thomas Morstead

Thomas Morstead
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Punters might be the most underrated position in football, but they can make a huge difference in the playoffs. Pro Bowl punter Thomas Morstead is going to be vital to the Saints making the playoffs next season. Morstead is one of the best punters in the NFL. He will be involved in his fair share of big plays, and he will help the defense by giving the opposing offense shorter field position.

If you recall, Morstead did a perfect onside kick back in 2009 that helped the Saints secure their first ever Super Bowl victory. Morstead has the talent and experience to help get the Saints back to the playoffs and he will be huge next season.

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9. Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan
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This season wide receiver Joe Morgan will be asked to take on a bigger role in the offense, and I think he will do great. Last season Morgan appeared in 14 games and caught 10 receptions for a whopping 379 yards and three touchdowns. Morgan is the Saints’ situational deep threat, and he will be used a lot more in the offense next season.

Morgan is such a valuable weapon for the Saints to have and with his great play the team will surely get back to the playoffs. I know that Morgan will rise to the occasion and with more playing time his numbers will skyrocket.

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8. Keenan Lewis

Keenan Lewis
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The new guy Keenan Lewis already has some lofty expectations to live up to. The former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback was the first free agent acquisition the Saints made, and he was brought in to specifically help the Saints horrendous secondary. Lewis led the league with 23 passes defended last season, and the Saints are hoping to get some more of the same production out of him this season.

Lewis figures to be the starting right cornerback, and with Jabari Greer lining up on the left side, the duo could become one of the best in the NFL. If Lewis can help improve the Saints' secondary, the team will definitely make a trip to the 2013 NFL playoffs.

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7. Lance Moore

Lance Moore
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Lance Moore is coming off a career year in which he posted a career-high 1,041 receiving yards and had six touchdowns on 65 receptions. Moore solidified himself as the Saints’ number two receiver and next season he will have to continue his great play in order for the Saints to get back to the playoffs.

Moore has been a consistent threat for the Saints and one thing he does best is picking up first downs. All of those first downs will matter in the playoffs when teams are looking to extend drives, and if Moore plays like he did last season he will help the Saints get back to the playoffs.

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6. Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram
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One thing that the Saints must improve on this season is their running game. Last season it was almost nonexistent, but when the running game was rolling the Saints were winning games. Running back Mark Ingram will be critical for the Saints, and this season could be make or break for him.

Ingram has improved every season he has played in the NFL, but this season the Saints would like to see him reach the 1,000 yard mark. If the Saints can get the ball in Ingram’s hands and he takes care of the rest, then the Saints will have established a running game and could be back into the playoffs as a result.

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5. Curtis Lofton

Curtis Lofton
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Linebacker Curtis Lofton has yet to miss a game in his NFL career, and the Saints will rely on his durability to get the back to the playoffs. Lofton was the one bright spot on the Saints’ defense last year as he led the team with 123 tackles. With the Saints transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the team will still look for similar production out of Lofton.

Lofton will likely transition to an outside linebacker in the 3-4, but that shouldn’t affect his production. If the Saints’ best linebacker has another good season, then the team will get back to the playoffs.

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4. Darren Sproles

Darren Sproles
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Darren Sproles is the Saints’ jack of all trades and his role will not change heading into next season. Sproles will be asked to run the ball, catch the ball, and return the ball, all things he is very good at. Sproles will be a pivotal piece in the Saints’ offense and their success will come in part from his great play.

This season if the Saints want to get back to the playoffs, Sproles will need to be involved often. If the ball is in Sproles’ hands, good things will happen and the Saints could be looking at a deep playoff run.

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3. Marques Colston

Marques Colston
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Marques Colston is the Saints’ number one wide receiver and they will need his big play to return to the playoffs. Colston is a model of consistency as he has had over 1,000 receiving yards in six of his seven NFL seasons. Furthermore, Colston is the Saints all-time touchdown leader and already the best wide receiver the Saints have ever had. If he has another typical season then the Saints will get back to the playoffs.

Also, Colston brings leadership and experience and that will go a long way as the Saints look to make a playoff run. If Colston is healthy and on the field, the Saints will always have a shot at making the playoffs.

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2. Jimmy Graham

Jimmy Graham
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Graham is coming off of wrist surgery and is playing in a contract year. If anyone was ever to be primed for a bounce back season it is him. The superstar tight end is coming off a season in which he had 982 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 85 receptions. However, by his standards that is not good enough, so look for Graham to have a monster season next year.

Graham is a matchup nightmare and the Saints will expose many defenses with him in the game. If he can have a season like the one he had two years ago, the Saints will be marching right back to the playoffs. Graham is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and next season he will remind us all why.

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1. Drew Brees

Drew Brees
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees is the leader of the Saints, so who else would be the one guy to lead the team back to the playoffs? The Super Bowl winning quarterback is arguably the best in the league and it will take his play and leadership to get the Saints back to the playoffs. Brees will be glad to have Sean Payton back and the star quarterback will command one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Brees is one of the best leaders in the league, and he will do whatever it takes to get the Saints back to the playoffs. Furthermore, Brees will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after the team failed to make the playoffs last season, and this season he feels he and his teammates have something to prove. With Brees at the helm, the Saints will be a very dangerous team that will make a lot of noise in the 2013 NFL playoffs.