Most importantly, we finally get to see perhaps the league’s greatest offensive mastermind, Saints Coach Sean Payton, after a one-season suspension from “Bountygate.” New Orleans likely would have entered 2012 among Super Bowl favorites with Payton, but instead lost its first four contests en route to missing the postseason, with the offense often seeming disjointed despite piling up so many yards in catch-up mode.
Payton’s return might inspire the Saints’ first-team offense to put on a show during the 14 to 16 snaps the starters will likely play tonight, according to The Advocate: “I think just getting back out on the field to practice and then having a chance to get back and coach a regular game — that part of it is exciting,” Payton said Thursday.
Last time Payton was in position to execute a real offensive game plan against NFL opposition was back in New Orleans’ wild-card thriller at the San Francisco 49ers, when Drew Brees shredded San Fran’s defense during the second half before falling in defeat. That was back in 2011, when New Orleans had a discernible deep threat on roster: Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson have since departed and Joe Morgan tore his ACL in Saints training camp recently.
It will be interesting to see if Payton takes some shots deep against the Vikings. Steve Breaston, Nick Toon and Kenny Stills are now in a heated battle for receiver work behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore, who are far from deep threats.