2009-10 New Orleans Saints Predictions
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 8/21/2009
2008 Record: 8-8 (6-2 H, 2-6 R); fourth in NFC South
2008 Against the spread: 10-5-1 (6-2 H, 4-3-1 R); 11-5 vs. Total
2008 Rankings: 1st offense (28th rush, 1st pass); 23rd defense (17th rush, 23rd pass)
2009 Odds: 20-1 Super Bowl Odds; 10-1 NFC Championship odds; +175 NFC South; 9 wins (O/U)
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For gambling and fantasy football purposes the New Orleans Saints were a bettors and a fantasy football player's best friend. The Saints went 10-5-1 ATS, making them a great football pick while Drew Brees put up ridiculous numbers, throwing for 5,069 yards and 34 touchdowns. But when it counted the Saints defense (allowing 25 points per game) and running game (28th in the NFL) were too much to overcome and the Saints went 8-8 and missed the playoffs while finishing last in the NFC South.
The NFL's best offense put up 29 points per game. And what is even more remarkable is that they did that without a competent running game that only figures to get worse this season. No real back emerged last season as Pierre Thomas (129 carries), Deuce McAllister (107 carries) and Reggie Bush (106 carries) split carries. McAllister left in the offseason and Thomas and Bush are left behind to pick up the pieces of the running attack that let the Saints down on numerous occasions last season.
As much as the carries were spread out, Brees did an even better job of getting nearly every receiver in on the mix. Lance Moore (79 receptions), Reggie Bush (52), Jeremy Shockey (50), Marques Colston (47), Billy Miller (45) and Devery Henderson (32) were all viable options in the passing attack. All of Brees' weapons are back in the fold this year.
The question is not through the air but on the suspect ground game. Not only was McAllister let go but so was leading blocker, fullback Mike Karney. An 11th-hour attempt on draft day to trade up and nab a running back failed and the Saints will be left with Thomas and Bush.
With an offense that was burning up the Super Dome carpet like the Saints it's easy to overlook the defense. Last season the defensive unit was always in a precarious position as Saints drives rarely were sustained for long and they were forced on the field longer than any other defensive unit in the conference. Still they managed to contain the run, ranking 17th in the league at that but the 339 yards per game it was allowing was only ranked 23rd.
That defense could prove to be a big surprise this season. Veteran safety Darren Sharper has been brought aboard and he should help cut down on the long bombs that hurt the Saints week in week out. Last season 67 times opponents completed a pass for more than 25 yards. Safety Pierson Prioleau was also signed and linebacker Jonathan Vilma emerged as an impact player on defense and the Saints secured him with a long term contract. The loss of Mike McKenzie will hurt the secondary but rookies and second year players Tracy Porter, Randall Gay and Malcolm Jenkins infuse youth into the maligned secondary unit.
2009-2010 New Orleans Saints Predictions: Fun-and-gun offenses like the Saints that play in domes rarely make deep playoff runs but nine wins is not out of the question in a completely wide-open NFC South. The one argument that goes against the Saints more than the lack of a running game is that the schedule outside of the division is downright brutal down the stretch. Ten playoff teams in 12 weeks close out the Saints season. But if they can build momentum early on with games against the Lions, Bills and Jets in the first month of the season the Saints have a punchers chance at winning the division and easily surpassing nine wins.
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