Totally biased NFC rival season previews! New Orleans Saints

Those of us in the Eagles blogging community decided to get together and write our own season previews for opposing NFC East teams as well as some other notable NFC rivals.

Iggles Blog looks at the Dallas Cowboys
Depressed Fan tackles the San Francisco 49ers.
Eagle Scout paints a not so rosy picture of this year's New York Giants.
Fortress of Pillows takes on those Chicago Bears.
BountyBowl checks out the Redskins.

I was charged with previewing the 2007 USA Saints.

I refer to them as the USA Saints, because I forgot which city they were from and their website doesn't say. It does however, prominently feature Darwin Walker chasing Deuce McAllister in the page header. Seriously though, thanks to the tragedy of Katrina and the team's inspired run the Saints became the true "America's Team." The best part was, they didn't even have to refer to themselves as it to get the moniker to stick!

The Saints strengths are pretty obvious and have been extolled ad nauseum in every season preview written so far. Drew Brees is legit and should be considered a top 5 QB in football right now. The team has a multitude of young and talented options in the passing game and a dynamic and varied one two threat out of the backfield. They can pressure the passer and have made some solid signings to shore up their secondary this offseason. Plus, they play in a poor division which never hurts. Barring an injury to Brees or McCallister(no Bush couldn't pick up the slack in his absence) this team will win 10-11 games and will be in the mix come playoff time.

Now all that said, I think I'm going to spend the bulk of this preview telling you why the Saints might not be a contender in 2007. As I've said earlier, the strengths are obvious... but considering I'm writing this for an Eagles audience why not focus on some reasons why we may succeed this year in doing what we couldn't do twice last year, beat this team.

The Saints entered the 2006 NFL playoffs as the number 2 seed in the NFC complete with a bye week and a home game in the second round, however it should be noted that they did this with a 10-6 record. Identical to the Eagles. In most seasons, 10-6 would never earn you a #2 seed. Reading most season previews and power rankings heading into this year you'd think the 2006 Saints were alot better than they really were.

The Saints, like every NFC team, were flawed. They were ranked 23rd in rush defense, with a weak linebacking corps at the center of those struggles. Hmmm, remind you of anyone? They did make some offseason additions to shore up the LB corps, including an aging but solid MLB in Brian Simmons and the laughable signing of Dhani Jones. You'd think the front row seat to the ineptitude of Dhani the team had in the playoffs last year would have told them something... but then again this is a team that started Mark Simoneau at MLB last year. Again, I ask. Remind you of anyone?

America's team is also suspect in the special team's dept. Longtime solid kicker John Carney was cut this offseason to make way for the wildy inconsistent Olindo Mare from Miami. That said, the Saints will play 10 of their 16 games in a dome this year which will help anyone's kicking game. Although it often will hurt your chances in the postseason if you don't secure home field. The Saints seemed to learn this as they were blown out by the Bears on the road in windy and cold Chicago.

Now, while they play 10 of their 16 games in a dome that doesn't mean their schedule is easy. Getting that much needed home field advantage is going to be alot tougher for them this year than last. The Saints have a pretty killer schedule. They start at the Colts, which is a place no visitor will be favored to win. In week 3 they clash with the Titans who finished last season on an absolute tear. After a bye in week 4 the Saints face just one team in the next 5 weeks with a losing record in 2006. That is a road game against the 7-9 49ers who are many expert's pick to be this year's Saints... Starting week 12, the Saints have 3 straight games against NFC South rivals with the two bookend games on the road. They finish the final two weeks of the year against 2 of the other top 3 NFC teams from last year, the Eagles and Bears.

So to sum it up, the linebackers aren't great and the team struggles against the run. They weren't as good last year as everyone seems to think and have a tough schedule this year. Their FG kicking may not be very good, and they could struggle outside of a dome. In all honestly, the negatives aren't all that bad and not all that numerous. The Saints' holes are no worse than any other NFC contenders. I have them at 10-6 and winning the NFC South.

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