Thank God for Drew Brees. Realistically, where would the Saints be without him? Probably anywhere from 5 to 8 wins. The Saints have weapons on offense, but wouldn’t score in bunches like they do now. And my goodness that defense. They would be just as bad, but just without an elite offense. Let’s face it; Drew Brees is why the Saints' offense is elite. The receivers are average collectively, the running game is average (with the hope of significant improvement), and a really good offensive line. So, where do you see the Saints in 2013? Do they stack up as one of the best NFC teams? Let me break it down team by team.
The Elite Teams:
These are the teams I see as the cream of the crop as they say. I struggled deciding if the Saints should be here or not, but I believe they have what it takes offensively to be one of the best teams in all of football. If it wasn’t for the defense there would be no question that they would be here. However, that defense is just atrocious. Last year they gave up, on average, 440 yards per game. Enough to rank, statistically, as the worst defense to ever play the game. As bad as that may be, I see room for improvement. I think with the new DC, Rob Ryan, and the newly acquired 3-4 scheme in place, the Saints can be successful. I also add in the hope that they get an impact pass rusher to help day one. With that in mind I put the Saints in the “elite” category. The other teams in this category are the 49ers, self-explanatory. They are young with a great core of elite players returning. The Packers, much like the Saints, are elite because of Aaron Rodgers with better receivers than the Saints. Without Aaron Rodgers, they are a middle of the pack team, no pun intended. The Seahawks, in many people’s minds will be the favorite to win it all. They are solid in all dimensions of the game and are also very young. And last in this group, the dirty birds. Ugh, yes I hate putting them here, but they are a really good team. Matt Ryan is a good quarterback with probably the best receiving core as a whole in the NFL. That is not even including one of the best tight ends to ever play the game in Tony Gonzalez. He has not made up his mind if he will return for another season or not. Either way the Falcons will still be a very good team in 2013.
The Good teams:
The teams that are not elite yet, but are on their way to it. The Giants are a very good team and are probably a step ahead of these other “good teams”. They have a solid quarterback with good receivers. They also have a top notch defense with an outstanding pass rusher in JPP. However, the reason I decided not to put them in the “elite” category is because of their lack of balance on offense. They do not have a good run game, especially after releasing Ahmad Bradshaw. Therefore it makes them one dimensional. Also on this list are the Vikings. Adrian Peterson. Need I say more? The Bears are also a really good team. The defense has never been in question, although they are getting old, are still very effective. The offense is what has been troublesome, but with the hiring of a new coach, an offensive minded coach, look for the Bears offense to make some strides. They too, are also very close to that next level in my opinion. The Redskins will also be back with RGIII. He is one of the most versatile players I have seen in a while who can run, throw, option, you name it. Add in Alfred Morris and a good receiving core and you got a really good team. The last team in this category is the Rams. I know you’re thinking the Rams?! Are you crazy?! Hear me out though. The Rams have a very good young defense and although they ranked 14th in total defense, I expect them to make a pretty good leap forward. If Sam Bradford can stay healthy they have enough talent to be a good team. Also remember this is a Jeff Fisher coached team.
The Average Teams:
The teams that I think are middle of the pack. I start off with the Cowboys. They are a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. They are probably one of the most star studded teams in all of football. However, they have one huge problem, and that is Jerry Jones. He is constantly in the way and interfering with coaching. This is why I list them as just an average team. The Lions could be a good team if they added a running back such as Ahmad Bradshaw or Stephen Jackson in the offseason. Until then they are also a one dimensional team with Stafford and Megatron, which correlates to an average team. The Eagles also have a very star studded team, but something just isn’t right in Philly. They just don’t seem to play good together, but, if Michael Vick stays healthy and the defense lives up to the hype then this could be a dangerous team. They just have to prove it first and that is why I list them as average. Last are the Panthers. They showed signs of being a good team last year, but I’m just not buying the Carolina Panthers as a good team.
The Bad Teams:
Here are the teams that just aren’t that good. The Arizona Cardinals. I mean really? Is anyone going to argue with me on this one? They have a pretty solid defense and Larry Fitzgerald, but after that, eek. No quarterback, no running back, and a bad offensive line. Probably the worst of the worst here. I also put the Bucs here. This one is debatable, but they just aren’t that good. Josh Freeman is overrated, VJax is overrated, and their other receivers just aren’t that good. Doug Martin is their only threat in my opinion and he is really good, but not enough.
So looking team by team in the NFC, this conference will be very deep with only two bad teams arguably. The other 14 teams are all capable of making the playoffs. So the Saints will have their work cut out for them, but I still look at the Saints as an elite team and think they will stack up well in the NFC. Look for a huge bounce back season for the Saints with a playoff appearance.
Early NFC playoff prediction
1. Seahawks 13-3
2. Saints 12-4
3. Packers 10-6
4. Giants 9-7
5. 49ers 11-5
6. Falcons 10-6