It's incredibly tough to finish with the same record in the NFL three straight seasons and four out of five - whether you are a great team, mediocre one or terrible. As far as I can tell, no team in NFL history has finished 7-9 four years in a row, but the Saints could do so in 2017.
There is one full-time head coach who finished with that record four straight years: Dick Jauron. That comes with a disclaimer, however. In his final 2003 season with Chicago, the Bears finished 7-9. Jauron was an interim head coach for the Lions in 2005, and that club was 1-4 under him. Jauron then got the top job with Buffalo and led the Bills to 7-9 records from 2006-08. So there you go. From 2011-13, the Dallas Cowboys were 8-8 each season but they jumped to 12-4 in 2014. That's the most recent similar example I can find close to these Saints.
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I might as well just copy/paste a Saints season recap every year. As usual, Drew Brees was great as he won yet another passing yardage title. His 5,208 yards were fourth-best in league history and his incredible fifth time with at least 5,000. No one else has more than one. New Orleans led the league in total offense and was second in scoring (29.3 ppg). As usual, the defense was one of the NFL's worst. The Saints were 27th in yards allowed and 31st in points (28.4 ppg). Not sure I see anything changing this year. Then club already has lost defensive tackle Nick Fairley for the season due to a heart issue. Fairley re-signed with the Saints in March a four-year contract worth between $28 million and 30 million, including an $8 million signing bonus and a total of $14 million in guarantees. Fairley had 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his first season with the team in 2016.
New Orleans was 3-5 on the road last season, a stellar 7-1 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The Saints travel to three playoff teams in 2017: Miami, Green Bay and Atlanta. It looks a bit harder than the home slate. Only one set of back-to-back road games and realistically only one chance to play in winter weather. I project a 2-6 record. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 11 at Vikings ( -3, 48): First game of the Monday night Week 1 doubleheader and a homecoming for new Saints running back Adrian Peterson. Think Sean Payton might have some extra touches in the game plan for AP? Remember, Mark Ingram is the featured back. I'll just put it plainly: If the Saints don't win this game, they aren't going to the playoffs because they could be in a deep early hole. Key betting trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 at NFC North teams.
Sept. 24 at Panthers (-3): New Orleans comes off its home opener against the Patriots and thus could be staring at 0-3 here. The Saints lost in Charlotte 23-20 on a Thursday in Week 11 last year. New Orleans was down 23-3 entering the fourth before Brees led a big rally. Alas, he didn't get the ball back a final time until 14 seconds were left, not enough to get into field-goal range. Key betting trend: Saints 0-6 SU & 2-4 ATS in past six as at least a 3-point road dog in series.
Oct. 1 at Dolphins (-3): This is in London and ahead of the Saints' bye. This will be a round trip of 9,274 miles for the Saints. Last year, their longest round trip was a Week 9 contest at San Francisco (2,229 miles). New Orleans could travel straight from Carolina to London, which is what the team did the last time it played, and won, in London in 2008. Key betting trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 before bye week (any location).
Oct. 22 at Packers (-7.5): Saints host the Lions the previous Sunday. It will never get old watching Brees and Aaron Rodgers square off. In the past five meetings between these teams, they have combined for at least 55 points in each. Most recently, the Saints won 44-23 at home in 2014. Key betting trend: Saints 7-3 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 7.5 points.
Nov. 12 at Bills (-2): This is the only winter weather chance for the Saints, and it could still be somewhat nice in Buffalo in mid-November. Saints come off a home game vs. Tampa. New Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott knows the Saints well as the former Panthers defensive coordinator. Key betting trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Nov. 26 at Rams (+2): New Orleans hosts Washington the previous Sunday. It's the only scheduled 4:05 p.m. ET game on the Saints' schedule. They clobbered the visiting Rams 49-21 in Week 12 a season ago. Brees threw for 310 yards and four scores, and Ingram had 146 yards and two TDs. Key betting trends: Saints 8-2 ATS in past 10 as road favorite of 2.5 points or fewer.
Dec. 7 at Falcons (-7): Thursday night. Saints enter off a Week 13 game vs. Carolina.Since the league made Thursday night games a regular part of the schedule five years ago, New Orleans has played five on the road and just one at home. The Saints closed last season with a 38-32 loss in Atlanta. That was a total backdoor cover as the Falcons were up 38-13 entering the fourth and pulled their starters. Key betting trend: Saints 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 31 at Bucs (TBA): Per usual, no early Week 17 lines posted. Saints off their home finale vs. the Falcons on Christmas Eve. New Orleans lost 16-11 in Tampa in Week 14 last year. Brees finished 25 of 41 for 257 yards but was picked off three times and didn't throw a TD pass. The Saints defense played one of its best games of the season in the loss. Key trend: Saints 1-3 ATS in past four at Bucs but 3-1 SU.
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