The New Orleans Saints had arguably the worst 2012 of any team in sports.
They started it off by losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the most dramatic way possible. With 1:37 left on the clock, Drew Brees drilled Jimmy Graham on a 66-yard touchdown pass. Alex Smith took his team down the field and punched it in with only nine seconds left. That is how the season ended. Then Bounty Gate happened.
We all know the rest. Sean Payton is returning from a year-long suspension and is ready for to move on from this fiasco with his team. So what kind of expectations should there be for the Saints? They were one of the worst defensive units in the past few decades. They were all-time bad when Brees didn’t have the ball in his hand. They brought in Rob Ryan to try to fix the problems this team had when the offense was on the sidelines.
It still remains to be seen if he can improve this team as his Dallas Cowboys defense ranked 24th in scoring defense in 2012. They brought in Keenan Lewis to help the secondary and drafted star safety Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas. Is that really going to make this unit that much better?
The best case scenario for the Saints is making it to the NFC Championship game. For that to happen, a lot has to go right. Brees needs to once again be a very good quarterback, but hopefully Payton won’t rely on him as much as his interim coaches did.
Brees threw the ball 670 times last season — only Matt Stafford had more. Their running back unit needs to rush the ball much more for this team to be successful. The entire unit only ran the ball 370 times last season. In this best-case scenario, Mark Ingram will finally live up to the hype that had the Saints drafting him with the no. 28 pick.
The defense can only be called upon to be average, but with an offense like this, it only needs to be average. If they were middle of the pack last season, they would have allowed around 22 points per game. If the Saints would have allowed 22 points in all of their games, they would have gone 13-3.
That is a glaring stat. I know the formula is not perfect, but it is a testament to show where the 2012 Saints’ season went wrong.
The worst-case scenario for the Saints is quite simple. Can you name the backup quarterback for this team? If Drew Brees ever had to miss time for the Saints, that would be catastrophic for them. Their backup quarterback is Luke McCown. Most of the readers here are probably surprised that he is still on a roster.
I think a full season of McCown could, at best, give you 3,000 yards, even though he hasn’t thrown that in his career. That is more than 2,000 less than what Brees has been averaging over the last three years. This team does not function without their quarterback. If he goes down, don’t expect a Matt Cassel-type season from their backup.
So what is realistic for the Saints in 2013? Will they play like the 2011 team, or the 2012 one? I think that some of the moves they made to improve the defense will help them come back towards the pack in terms of pass defense. That is something that will help them exponentially.
The problem is that their division keeps getting better. The Atlanta Falcons brought back a team that was close to going to the Super Bowl, and they switched Michael Turner for Steven Jackson. The Carolina Panthers bring back all their injured stars. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought in Darrell Revis and Dashon Goldson to solidify a secondary that was already decent.
Even with the improved division, I still see the Saints going 10-6 and making a playoff run. The offense is just something of a spectacle, and I think they will get a chance to shine this season.