By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
Over the last three seasons, the New Orleans Saints have continuously been one of the best teams in football, as they’ve shown by going an impressive 37-11 in their last 48 games.
It’s when they have hit the playoffs is when things start to go south in the hurry, as in each of the last three seasons, Super Bowl expectations were met with instant heartbreak, as the Saints not only would be eliminated from the postseason before they could get back to their first Super Bowl since 2010, they would be eliminated three-straight seasons on the final play of the game.
There was the Minneapolis Miracle in 2018 that sent the Vikings to the NFC Championship, the missed pass interference call heard around the world the following season against the Rams when the Saints were on the brink of a Super Bowl date with the Patriots, and this past January a shocking overtime loss again at the hands of the Vikings, this time in the first round of the playoffs after the Saints finished the season 13-3.
Now New Orleans is staring at year four of this Super Bowl window, and that window is closing quickly as when Drew Brees isn’t making new friends on Twitter, he’s also a 41-year old quarterback and age has to catch up to him eventually, and in many ways already has shown early glimpses as was shown in that playoff loss against Minnesota where Brees could not beat the Vikings defense deep.
All the pieces are in place for Sean Payton to finally get this Saints team over the hump and back into the Super Bowl, the only question that remains is, can they finally do it?
Saints 2019 Season Review
The Saints entered the 2019 season after months of seething over one of the worst missed calls in NFL Playoffs history, compounded by the fact that two weeks later the same Rams team that would send the Saints home managed to only score 3 points in a 13-3 Super Bowl LIII loss.
And while the Saints certainly had multiple opportunities after that fateful blown call to still beat the Rams and secure a spot in the Super Bowl, the Saints and Sean Payton were convinced they had a Super Bowl ring taken away from them thanks to that missed call.
Questions circled above the Saints all offseason and many wondered if New Orleans would lose sight of what a stacked roster they had and if the hangover from missing out on such a wonderful opportunity to win a Super Bowl would essentially ruin their 2019/20 season before it began.
Turns out the answer to that riddle was a resounding “no”, as the Saints would open the season with a 7-1 record, made even more impressive by the fact they without future Hall of Famer Drew Brees for six of those games.
After an unexpected blowout home loss at the hands of a 1-7 Saints team, New Orleans would go on another three-game winning streak with an NFC South sweep of the Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons in the Thanksgiving Night rematch, setting the stage for one of the biggest matchups of the 2019 NFL Season against the San Francisco 49ers in a battle of 10-2 teams.
The game lived up to all the hype, and provided the highest-scoring game of the 2019 NFL Season, but also wound up with the Saints falling just short in a 48-46 instant classic.
The loss would eventually come back to haunt the Saints in a big way, as despite winning out to close the season with a 13-3 record, New Orleans would lose the tie-breaker to Green Bay and be relegated to playing on the first weekend of the playoffs against their sudden rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.
What happened after that is the same heartbreak Saints fans and players alike have endured over this stretch of success, as a smothering Vikings defense would take away the deep ball and force the Saints to move the ball down the field in long drives as opposed to the quick-strike attack they would prefer.
Minnesota also bled as much clock as possible and would produce time-consuming drives of their own, as they dominated time of possession and did all they could to ensure the Saints offense could never get in a rhythm.
The result was another heartbreaking loss against a familiar foe and another season that fell well short of the Saints Super Bowl goals.
New Orleans now will hope to re-load the roster with enough talent to try to make the most out of the last few seasons Drew Brees has left, and the 2020 season could be the Saints last shot at sending Brees out as a two-time Super Bowl Champion.
Looking Forward to Having Their Dreams Shattered in Horrific Fashion in January 2021
WR Emmanuel Sanders (49ers)
S Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles)
QB Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
DE Margus Hunt (Colts)
RT James Hurst (Ravens)
LB Anthony Chickillo (Steelers)
RB Ty Montgomery (Jets)
Bounced Like the Saints in the Last Three Postseasons
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Panthers)
CB Eli Apple (Panthers)
LB A.J. Klein (Bills)
S Vonn Bell (Bengals)
WR Ted Ginn (Bears)
LB Manti Te’o (Free Agent)
LB Stephone Anthony (Free Agent)
G Larry Warford (Free Agent)
Saints 2020 Offensive Preview
The Saints enter the 2020 NFL Season with primarily the same core group of players from a season ago, but they believe they have potential to be even better this go around.
New Orleans began the offseason by giving Drew Brees some help, as the Saints went out and signed free-agent WR Emmanuel Sanders away from San Francisco. Sanders had a remarkable 2019 season as he was returning from an Achilles injury he suffered in December 2018, only to recover in time for the start of the 2019 season with the Broncos. Denver would trade him during the season to San Francisco, and Sanders would accomplish the rare feat of playing in 17 regular-season games as the 49ers already had their bye week when Sanders was traded.
The Saints hope that the addition of Sanders will open up the Saints passing attack even more for their All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas. After signing a $100 million extension before the 2019 season began, Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s NFL record for receptions in a season with a ridiculous 149 receptions, 1,725 yards, and nine touchdowns. Thomas was rewarded with the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award for his remarkable season, and will once again be one of the focal points in the Saints offense.
Sean Payton also hopes that 2018 3rd round pick Tre’Quan Smith will take that next leap in his career and provide Brees with another reliable weapon in the passing game. If that’s not enough to scare defenses, New Orleans also has Tayson Hill to deploy at any moment, and the position-less athlete is capable of hurting you throwing the ball, catching the ball, and even in the return game.
To help relieve some of the pressure on their 41-year old quarterback, the Saints also feature one of the best 1-2 punches at running back with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. Kamara struggled in his 2019 season as he rushed for just 797 yards and 5 touchdowns while posting a respectable 81 receptions and 533 yards in the passing game. However, as Saints training camp resumed, it was revealed that Kamara was playing most of the 2019 season with a torn MCL, and the running back claims to be 100 percent healthy entering the 2020 season. If Kamara is indeed healthy, that only adds to the treasure trove of weapons at Sean Payton’s disposal.
New Orleans will also return the tandem of Jared Cook and Josh Hill at tight end, giving Sean Payton’s offense a speedy vertical threat that can open up the middle of the field (Cook), and a solid blocking TE with more than enough ability to hurt you in the passing game (Hill).
Once again, the Saints offensive line will also be a very formidable group, as they return four starters from a season ago and will now have 2020 1st round pick Cesar Ruiz starting at right guard in place of free agent Larry Warford, who the Saints elected to not re-sign. The Saints o-line will be anchored by former Pro Bowlers Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, with big Andrus Peat starting at left guard following a 2019 season that saw the guard miss time with various injuries.
With the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints offense will have 8 starters that have gone to the Pro Bowl since this run started.
Saints 2020 Defensive Preview
It may be hard to believe, but the Saints defense is a legit unit and no longer the glaring weakness of the team as it had been for many years under Sean Payton.
Dennis Allen’s Saints are particularly good against the run and in putting heat on the quarterback. The Saints defense has gone 43 straight games without allowing a running back to top 100 yards rushing, and the Saints pass rush accounted for 51 sacks in 2019, the highest such output in the Sean Payton era, and the Saints highest total since 2001.
Headlining the show for the black and gold are defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Jordan enters the 2020 season coming off a career-high 15.5 sack season while Davenport notched six sacks in his second year with the team. They will pair with veteran interior linemen Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata to form an imposing defensive line for the Saints.
At linebacker, the Saints have talent, but they also have two of their top linebackers returning from injury in 2020. Alex Anzalone returns to the Saints lineup after having a season-ending shoulder injury two games into the 2019 season, and Kiko Alonso figures to start the 2020 season on the PUP list as he’s recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the Wild Card loss to Minnesota.
In the event Anzalone or Alonso miss additional time, the Saints will count on veterans Demario Davis, Craig Robertson, free-agent addition Anthony Chickillo, and 2020 3rd round pick Zack Baun for depth.
New Orleans secondary will have a familiar face rejoin the group, as the Saints signed free agent Malcolm Jenkins away from Philadelphia to bring him back to the Bayou. Jenkins will replace playmaking Vonn Bell in the lineup, who left in free agency to play for the Bengals. The Saints boast one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFC with 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore and former New York Giants corner Janoris Jenkins. Veterans P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson will provide depth for Dennis Allen at corner, while Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and D.J. Swearinger will add depth at safety.
Considering the other quarterbacks in this division, namely Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, the Saints having a good deal of depth in the secondary will certainly be beneficial towards staying atop the NFC South.
Saints 2020 Outlook & Prediction
Is the fourth time the charm? We are about to find out. The Saints roster has everything you need to make a run at a Super Bowl, and in each of the last three seasons, it looked as though the Saints were about to do just that.
If Drew Brees can stay healthy this season (as Jameis Winston is not Teddy Bridgewater), and the Saints defense can live up to the hype, New Orleans may very well finally get over the hump and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. However, the NFC South is starting to gain on New Orleans in the talent department, and Tampa Bay may give the Saints all they can handle on their path to a 4th straight division crown, and we already know what Atlanta can do to them regardless of the type of season they may be having.
With all of that being said, there may not be a more complete roster in the NFC than the one in New Orleans, and this is a team determined to right the wrongs over the last three years. We like the Saints to capture another NFC South crown, have a strong showing in the regular season, and make it back to the NFC Championship for a shot at getting to Tampa for Super Bowl 55.
Saints 2020 Projection: 12-4, 1st NFC South
Saints 2020 Betting Preview
When the Saints go marching into the 2020 NFL Season, we happen to fancy these futures bets.
- New Orleans Saints OVER 10.5 Wins — (-106) at DraftKings Sportsbook
If Drew Brees can avoid injury in 2020, we feel like the Saints will go over the 10.5 win number fairly easily. In addition to their division opponents, the Saints do have a few tough games on their 2020 slate, namely games against Green Bay, San Francisco, Minnesota, and Kansas City, however, all of these games are scheduled to take place in the Superdome. If the Saints can go at least .500 in that quartet, the rest of their schedule is much more forgiving and makes this over look even better.
- New Orleans Saints to Win NFC South — (-125) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Quite frankly, we think this is a steal. Atlanta and Carolina figure to be far out of the race for the division title, and it remains to be seen how all the new talent gels in Tampa. Sean Payton has been here before, Drew Brees knows he’s coming up on the end of his storied career, and the Saints are going to be determined to exorcise all their past postseason demons. We love the Saints to hold off Brady and the Bucs to claim their fourth straight NFC South title.
- New Orleans Saints to Win NFC — (+550) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Saints enter 2020 with the 2nd best odds to win the NFC, only trailing the 49ers (+450) in that department. It’s well documented that New Orleans has flirted with breaking through and winning the NFC only to lose in heartbreak over the last three seasons, so why not take a crack at this dangerous team finally breaking the playoff hex and winning the NFC?
- Chiefs/Saints SB Matchup & Ravens/Saints SB Matchup — (+2400, +2500) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Just a couple dart throws for kicks, as we are sprinkling a tiny bit on the Saints to face off against the two presumptive favorites in the AFC in Super Bowl 55 at +2400 and +2500 respectively.