5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New Orleans Saints

We continue in the NFC South as part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, with the New Orleans Saints, who won the division last season.

The Saints won the division last season for the first time since 2011 with an 11-5 record, thanks in part to the emergence of rookie RB Alvin Kamara after taking a chance on veteran RB Adrian Peterson, who didn’t work out. This offseason, the team added depth to the offense with the signings of TE Ben Watson, RB Shane Vereen, and WRs Cameron Meredith, Michael Floyd and Brandon Tate. In the draft, they went with DE Marcus Davenport as their first-round pick. They’re hoping these additions will help them continue the success they had last year, when they had their first winning season in four years.

The offense was second in the NFL with 6,259 yards and fourth with 448 points scored in 2017. Despite the team’s high offensive ranks, QB Drew Brees had his fewest passing yards and touchdowns in more than a decade with 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns. He did, however, throw just eight interceptions, which was the lowest total of his career in a season in which he played all 16 games. WR Michael Thomas had a team-best 104 receptions for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. Kamara was the team’s second-best pass-catcher with 81 receptions for 826 yards and five touchdowns. WR Ted Ginn played in 15 games, including 10 starts, and caught 53 balls for 787 yards and four touchdowns. With the Ravens, Watson had 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns, while Meredith had 66 receptions for 888 yards and four scores in 14 games — 10 starts — with the Bears. RB Mark Ingram was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 230 times for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 58 catches for an additional 416 yards. Kamara had 120 rushes for 728 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, the Saints ranked near the middle of the league in yards allowed and 10th in points allowed.

The Saints have two consecutive home games to open the season, the first against the Buccaneers — who will be without QB Jameis Winston — and the second against the Browns. They then hit the road for a Week 3 game at the Falcons and a Week 4 contest at the Giants. After returning home to face the Redskins in Week 5, the Saints have their bye in Week 6. Week 7 sees them traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, followed by a visit to the Vikings. They host the Rams in Week 9 and the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles come to New Orleans to take on the Saints in Week 11. The Saints host the Falcons in Week 12 in the nightcap of the Thanksgiving tripleheader, and then they head out on a three-game road trip. It begins at the Cowboys in Week 13, followed by contests at the Bucs and Panthers. The Saints host the Steelers in Week 16 and end the regular season at home with another game against the Panthers.

The Saints’ window is likely closing with Brees now 39 years old and on the backend of his career, but having a top running back tandem like Ingram and Kamara — once the former returns from his four-game PED suspension — allows the offense to rack up yards and points without relying as much on the veteran quarterback as the team has in the past. The defense last year was one of the best the Saints have had in a while, and if that continues into 2018 the Saints will likely be able to make the postseason again, with another season of double-digit wins a distinct possibility. With the team owning just one Super Bowl title in its history, the Saints are hoping to get another championship before Brees eventually retires.

Source: http://www.neworleanssaints.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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