2015 New Orleans Saints Predictions: 1st NFC South (2014 record: 7-9)
Head Coach: Sean Payton
NFC South Division Odds: +150
Super Bowl Champion Odds: +3500
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 8.5 (-130), Under 8.5 (even)
Key Additions: C.J. Spiller (RB), Max Unger (C), Stephone Anthony (ILB), Andreas Peat (OL)
Key Losses: Kenny Stills (WR), Jimmy Graham (TE), Pierre Thomas (RB), Junior Galette (LB)
No team sent a bigger offseason shockwave through their fan base than the Saints did when the sent All World TE Jimmy Graham to the Pacific Northwest for an offensive line upgrade and a top draft pick. That was far from the only big roster move, however, as the Saints needed a defensive overhaul as well. There are a lot of new faces in the bayou; younger faces, and that should be the key to a return to the post season.
The Saints were supposed to have a dominant secondary last year, as they signed Jairus Byrd to team with Kenny Vaccaro. The problem? Byrd resorted back to his injury-prone years with the Bills and only played four games, leaving Vaccaro high and dry; he was just plain bad last season as he may have tried to do too much. Not much has changed for Byrd, as he’s been off the field more than on at camp; expect 3rd round pick PJ Williams to see some time alongside Vaccaro. The cornerback spot was strengthened by adding Brandon Browner, who will team nicely with incumbent starter Keenan Lewis.
The front seven, who only produced 34 sacks and allowed over 2,100 yards on the ground, got younger and much more athletic by adding three LBs; top draft picks Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha, and free agent Anthony Spencer. They will make the loss of top pass rusher Junior Galette sting considerably less. The line remains untouched, and that’s not terrible as they played respectably last season. Better linebacking behind them should make them even better.
Then there are the changes on the offensive side of the ball. Graham had to be traded; he was commanding too much salary that was needed elsewhere, as the team struggled to move the ball with the consistency that they had for so many years. Netting C Max Unger in the trade was a great coup; he’ll instantly improve the line, as Jonathan Goodwin was a turnstile last year. Top pick Andreas Peat should slide right in and start immediately as well. The remainder of the line returns intact and will be better for it. QB Drew Brees also lost his top WR when Kenny Stills was sent to Miami. That won’t sting so much, as Brandin Cooks is back, healthy, and ready to slide into the #1 spot.
Also added was RB CJ Spiller. Spiller possesses talent, and can break one at any time, but was misused for most of his tenure in Buffalo. He’ll get his share of carries, as will the returning Mark Ingram, but expect CJ to snare a number of passes from Brees, who really missed scat-back Darren Sproules last year. Spiller is much better than Ingram at catching the ball out of the backfield.
The team’s record slipped dramatically because of the shortcomings on defense. Many of those were addressed, and the Saints still reside in the subpar NFC South. With the likes of Washington, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Houston on the schedule, the Saints could see a nice little rebound to nine or ten wins. OVER