- The Saints took a major step forward on defense last season thanks to key additions in the draft and free agency. Can that unit be among the NFL's best in 2018?
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Saints 2018 win total: 9.5 (-135 over, +115 under)
Saints 2017 record: 11-5
Key offseason acquisitions: OT Jermon Bushrod, S Kurt Coleman, LB Demario Davis, WR Cameron Meredith, CB Patrick Robinson, TE Ben Watson
Key offseason losses: CB Delvin Breaux, WR Brandon Coleman, QB Chase Daniel, DT Nick Fairley, TE Coby Fleener, LB Michael Mauti, OT Zach Strief, S Kenny Vaccaro, OG Senio Kelemete
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Saints' win total
1. It took an all-time fluke play to keep the Saints from advancing to the NFC Championship Game, where they would have had Drew Brees leading them against a team quarterbacked by Nick Foles. Every single important player who took the field that day in Minnesota is still on the roster. That team ranked fourth in scoring offense, 10th in points against and fifth in point differential last season. Forget about being merely a Super Bowl contender, the Saints are on the short list of Super Bowl favorites this year.
2. Brees is going to waltz into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires, and he’s still at the height of his powers. He set an NFL record by completing 72% of his passes last year, totaling 4,334 yards, 8.1 yards per attempt and 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions. There are nine instances in NFL history of a quarterback connecting on at least 70% of his attempts. Brees owns four of them, including three of the top four. The surest path to a Super Bowl is to have an elite quarterback. The Saints have an inner-circle Hall of Famer running the show.
3. Not only is Brees still prolonging his peak into his late-30s, he’ll play this year with one of the best collections of skill-position talent he has ever had in his career. Michael Thomas is a true No. 1 receiver, capable of everything teams ask of their top playmakers. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara made history last season, combining for 1,852 rushing yards, 139 receptions, 1,242 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. Cameron Meredith, Ted Ginn, Ben Watson and Tre’Quan Smith round out an offense that will be able to attack defenses in seemingly countless ways every single week. Teams will have to outscore the Saints to beat them, and that won’t be easy.
4. For the first time since winning the Super Bowl after the 2009 season, the Saints weren’t all about offense last year. Led by Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, the Saints had one of the best secondaries in the league. Cam Jordan was a force off the edge, racking up 13 sacks and leading the team to the eighth-best sack rate in the league. Dennis Allen’s scheme helped the unit generate 25 takeaways, but it was among the unluckiest teams in the league in that regard. The Saints forced 19 fumbles but recovered just five, a 23.8% recovery rate that ranked dead last in the league. That bodes well for this season.
5. The NFC South may be the toughest division in football, with the Falcons and Panthers also 2017 playoff teams. Despite that, the Saints are early favorites in 10 games this season. The South matches up with the NFC East and AFC North, giving the Saints eminently winnable games against the teams that had the first and second picks in last year’s draft. Among their toughest non-division games, they get the Rams and Steelers at home. They also have a path to a strong start, beginning the season with home games against the Buccaneers and Browns. They travel to Atlanta Week 3, then visit the Giants and host Washington before a Week 6 bye that comes in advance of a trip to Baltimore, one of their toughest road games of the season. It’d be a shock if they were any worse than 4-1 at that point.
PICK: OVER 9.5 wins