New Orleans Saints 2010-2011 Season Preview

A Look Back – The New Orleans Saints are clearly coming off of the greatest year the franchise has ever had. Not only did the team win 13 games. Not only did it host a playoff game. Not only did it host the NFC Championship Game in the Bayou. Not only did it make it to its first ever Super Bowl, but New Orleans pulled the upset of the Indianapolis Colts as seven-point underdogs to become the victor of Super Bowl XLIV as well.

Key Addition – DB Patrick Robinson – When you’re the defending champs, you probably don’t need a whole heck of a lot to be added to your team. However, when you have a defense which ranked 25th in the league at 357.8 yards per game allowed, you clearly need some help on your defense. Robinson brings a lot of speed, as do most defensive players out of Florida State, but he is considered a bit of a raw talent that needs to be fine tuned.

New Orleans Saints NFL Cheerleader

Key Loss – OT Jamaal Brown – Trading OT Jamaal Brown didn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense from New Orleans’ standpoint. Why would you want to remove any of the pieces from a puzzle that had the most yards (403.8 per game) and the most points per game (31.9)? There really aren’t any tremendous viable options to step into Brown’s place, though he didn’t start in the Super Bowl last year.

2010 Will Be a Success if… - The offense keeps up with last year’s torrid pace. QB Drew Brees is rounding into one of the game’s best signal callers, and if he can approach the 4,500 yard mark once again, the Saints are clearly going to be marching on to the playoffs. Somehow, with all of the talented players on this squad, there doesn’t seem to be any complaining about getting the ball. Brees hit seven receivers at least 35 times last season, while RBs Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush all had enough carries to keep them happy as a group.

The Crucial Game – There isn’t a game on the schedule the Saints have to be looking forward to more than the Thanksgiving Day duel at Dallas. The Cowboys wrecked New Orleans’ perfect season last year, and there would be no better time to exact some revenge than on Thanksgiving. Plus, this game could legitimately be for the #1 seed in the NFC, as both the Cowboys and Saints are expected to win their divisions.

Predictions – Anything less than at least 11 wins and an NFC South crown would be brutally disappointing for the Saints this season. This schedule is littered with potential landmines, but for the most part, playing an NFC South slate is going to be easy enough to survive without any issues whatsoever. The Saints odds to win the Super Bowl are  a healthy +1100.

2010 New Orleans Saints Regular Season Schedule

9/9 vs. MIN
9/20 @ SF
9/26 vs. ATL
10/3 vs. CAR
10/10 @ ARI
10/17 @ TB
10/24 vs. CLE
10/31 vs. PIT
11/7 @ CAR
Bye
11/21 vs. SEA
11/25 @ DAL
12/5 @ CIN
12/12 vs. STL
12/19 @ BAL
12/27 @ ATL
1/2 vs. TB

 

And now it all comes out. Darren Sharper of the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints was supposed to be one of the hottest free agents of the off-season. It was quite a surprise that he wasn’t snapped up immediately, but it turns out that he had microfracture knee surgery rather than the much less severe arthroscopic knee surgery as was originally reported.

Sharper re-upped with the Saints on Monday for another year, but his status for the summer and the start of next season is unknown. (more…)

The NFL draft is rapidly approaching and which means it is time for NFL draft props. Draft props are a great way of putting your mock-draft abilities to the test.

The over/under on Defensive Tackles taken in Round 1 is 4.5 with the over paying +160 and the under just -180.

Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy will almost certainly be gone in the top five, but the question is are there three more players talented enough to be worth a first-round picks and are there three teams who need Defensive Tackles badly enough to burn a first round selection on one of the remaining candidates.

Dan Williams of Tennesse will almost certainly go in the first round giving a third defensive tackle.

Jared Odrick, Brian Price and Terrence Cody are the three remaining DT’s who are considered possible first-round material and you will need two of three to go in the first round to cover the over.

Odrick was arrested in March, so some teams might shy away from him, but he seems like a safe, but not exceptional pick.

Price declared one year early and has some upside in a 4-3 system, but he only has one really good year to his credit, so it is hard to say if he will be able to consistently perform at a high level.

Cody is intriguing because he has been working hard in the off-season to trim off some of his massive bulk and teams will like that commitment.

Possible destinations include the Cincinnati Bengals, the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints.

My guess is the Cincinnati uses Tank Johnson to let them gamble on developing a DT with a lower pick, the Pats pass on DT and choose to address other needs first, Odrick goes to the Ravens.

That leaves one of Price and Cody to go to New York, Minnesota or New Orleans in order to cover and I don’t see either of them being good enough to cause those teams to ignore other needs.

The under looks like the play here, but at -180 it might not be worthwhile.

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The New Orleans Saints joined their fans in celebrating their Super Bowl win yesterday parading through the city on carnival floats.

New ORLEANS SAINTS Super Bowl Parade

New ORLEANS SAINTS Super Bowl Parade

Head Coach Sean Payton showed off the Lombardi Trophy while players signed autographs, gave speeches and even sang.

Throngs of people pressed up against the floats causing the parade to stop at one point when one of the floats started rocking dangerously.

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Super Bowl 44

Super Bowl 44

The New Orleans Saints face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, February 7, 2010.

The Saints are the sentimental favorites making the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history while serving as a symbol of rebirth to a city ravaged by hurricane Katrina.

But we’re not interested in sentiment. The Colts are 5-point Super Bowl betting favorites and the over/under is 56.5.

We have the two top seeds from the regular season squaring off in a Super Bowl since 1993.

Both teams have a potent aerial attack and solid, but not exceptional, defense.

New Orleans gives up an average of 357.8 yards per game and were burned for 475 yards against Minnesota in the NFC championship game, but they do have the best red-zone defense in the league.

They’re not going to shut down Peyton Manning, but they will try to punish him the way they punished Favre.

The problem is that Manning is the best at reading defenses and he knows that the Saints will be trying to hurt him early so they can beat him late. Expect Manning to throw a lot of short plays and hand the ball off for runs early as the Colts try to prevent Manning from taking too much early punishment.

The Colts will almost certainly put up some big points. The Saints weren’t able to stop the Vikings offense, so they most certainly won’t be able to stop the Colts.

New Orleans may have won the game, but Minnesota basically handed the Colts the blue-print on how to stop them.

The Saints only picked up 257 yards in that game and were in complete lock-down in the second half until overtime and the Colts know they don’t need to stop Brees, only slow him down.

Colts DE Dwight Freeney’s injury has been the biggest betting variable, but the Colts are 7-2 without Freeney so maybe we’re overestimating Freeney’s impact.

New Orleans will almost certainly put up more yards than they got against Minnesota. The Vikings have a much stronger defensive core than the Colts, but the Colts defense is good enough and they showed that they can execute a game-plan to perfection when they smothered the Jets in the second half of the AFC championship game.

The Saints will have a chance to win this if they can hold the Colts to field goals instead of touchdowns and Drew Brees and the offense can put up a bunch of points.

But Manning doesn’t look like he can be stopped. Not for more than a quarter anyway.

Super Bowl Field Goal

Super Bowl Field Goal

Matt Stover at age 42 and Garrett Hartley at age 23 sit at opposite ends of their careers.

Stover is the oldest player to ever play in a Super Bowl and has made 471 field goals in the regular season and already has two Super Bowl rings to his credit.

Hartley has made just 22 field goals, but he already has one high pressure score to his credit. He made a 40-yarder in over-time against the Minnesota Vikings to send New Orleans to the Super Bowl in Miami.

Right now the edge has to go to Indianapolis with Stover. The over/under for the number of points each kicker gets clearly reflects this.

Stover’s total is 8. Hartley’s is 6.5.

Hartley could establish himself as a clutch championship-caliber kicker with another big game.

Hartley has averaged 8.0-points in two post-season games and 7.4-points a game over the regular season while Stover has averaged 10.0 points in the playoffs and 5.6 points in the regular season.

Judging by those stats, the over on Hartley looks like a good bet unless you think he’s going to choke.

In both cases you should bet over if you think they’re going to get two field goals, because they both can expect 3-4 points from touchdown conversions.

The only problem is that these two offense tend to score touchdowns when they get close to the end-zone and their defenses aren’t spectacular.

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Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl Cheerleader

One of the strange quirks of Super Bowl XLIV is that it features two teams with sub-par special teams. There are some highlights, like the Colts veteran kickers, but in some cases, like kickoff return coverage, both teams are downright awful.

Super Bowl Punting

Pat McAfee is handling punting duties for the Colts while  Thomas Morstead punts for the Saints. Both punters have been above their career averages in the playoffs and look to be in fine form when their teams need them most.

McAfee is averaging 46.0 yards per punt while Morstead is averaging 48.2 which is well above his regular season average of 43.6.

The Saints are getting a couple of extra yards out of their punter, but McAfee is closer to his average and is probably more reliable.

Edge: Even

Super Bowl Kicking

Here we have Matt Stover of the Colts against Garett Hartley of the Saints. Both kickers are perfect so far this post season and both kickers were a pedestrian 81 percent in the regular season.

Stover is the veteran of the two and has been reliable in past playoffs, but Hartley has already made one kick from long range to win a game this post season and a good Super Bowl for him would go a long way to establishing him as one of the elite kickers who can handle big pressure.

Edge: Colts

Colts Return Team vs Saints Coverage

Indianapolis ranked 18th in kickoff returns in the regular season averaging 22.2 yards on kickoffs and 28th on punt returns averaging 5.2 yards.

The Saints have the worst coverage in the NFL. They are 29th on kickoff returns giving up 24.5 yards per kick and are dead last in punt return coverage giving up a whopping 14.3 yards.

Fourth and one deep in your own territory? Gamble, because otherwise it’s coming back.

The Indianapolis punt return may be one of the worst in the NFL, but it’s just bad. New Orleans is monumentally bad.

Edge: Colts

Saints Return Team vs Colts Coverage

New Orleans  ranked 4th in kickoff returns in the regular season averaging 24.4 yards on kickoffs and 31st on punt returns averaging 4.6 yards.

The Colts are 31st in kickoff returns giving up 25.3 yards while on punt returns they are 16th with 8.4 yards.

In the post-season, Reggie Bush has already knocked off a big punt return for a touchdown and with his athleticism there’s always the chance that he’ll burn you. But the punt return team doesn’t create enough space to spring Bush with any consistency.

Edge: Saints

Manning already has a Super Bowl MVP award.

Manning already has a Super Bowl MVP award.

Super Bowl 44 MVP odds are out now and they reflect the usual bias towards quarterbacks and running backs. Peyton Manning is, not surprisingly, the overwhelming favorite followed by Drew Brees and the running backs Pierre Tomas and Joseph Addai.

RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints +800

Thomas didn’t have eye-popping regular season numbers picking up just 793 yards on the season, but that’s mostly because the Saints didn’t give him the ball much.

His 5.4 yards per carry is good, but it’s a little inflated because the Saints pass heavy offense makes it a little easier to knock off a big run.

The big reason for putting money on Thomas is that he was clutch against the Vikings. He picked up one receiving and one rushing touchdown and he was also the one who converted the fourth and one leap in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal.

RB Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts +800

Similar to Thomas, Addai’s numbers are partly a product of an offense that uses the run only to set up the pass which means he won’t get many touches, but should pick up a little more yardage with each touch.

Addai had 828 yards on the season and averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

Addai hasn’t done much in the playoffs to justify picking him over Thomas. He had a decent game against the Jets which was marred by losing a fumble, but he was almost a non-factor against the Ravens.

Also if the Colts win, he has to go up against Manning for the Super Bowl MVP and Manning will get the nod unless Addai’s performance is clearly better.

QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints +300

Brees is one of the best passers with the game and he has a lot of weapons on offense to show off his skill.

He threw for 34 touchdowns on the season, completed 70.6 percent of his passes and was picked just 11 times for a 109.6 passer rating.

His rating in the post season is even better at 116.1, but he had a bad game against the Vikings hitting just 54.8 percent of his passes.

The Vikings defense deserves the credit for not letting Brees play his game and, unless the Colts can pressure Brees the way the Vikings did, expect Brees to be back to his usual form for the Super Bowl.

QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts -250

Manning is the heavy favorite and why not? He’s already the regular season MVP and he already has a Super Bowl win to his credit.

Statistically Manning is a step below Brees. He threw for 33 touchdowns, completed 68.8 percent of his passes and was picked 16 times for a passer rating of 99.9.

Like Brees, Manning has stepped it up in the playoffs earning a 104.6 rating.

Manning’s performance against Baltimore wasn’t great, but the Colts were in control from beginning to end. Against the Jets, when the team needed him most, Manning was awesome picking up 3 passing touchdowns and a 123.6 rating against the best passing defense in the league.

With experience and a history of playing his best in big games, Manning is the clear choice. But he won’t pay out much, so maybe think of him as parlay fodder. Colts to win and Manning for MVP sounds right.

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Brett Favre Playoff Disappointment

Brett Favre Playoff Disappointment

Brett Favre definitely made a big mistake on the Vikings last offensive possession of the game when he threw a low percentage pass that was intercepted, but you can’t blame the Vikings loss solely on Favre.

New Orleans Defense Deserves Credit

Instead of focusing on how Favre mucked up, focus on how New Orleans put him in a position to muck up.

Part of the New Orleans defensive game plan was to make the game rough on Favre. Favre took a number of hits, injured his foot and by the last play it affected his game.

Would Favre have run the ball had he not been injured? We don’t know, but it certainly would have seemed like a more attractive option if he wasn’t already hobbled.

Would Favre have run the ball if he hadn’t already taken a bunch of big hits? We don’t know that either, but all of that punishment has to start weighing on you.

The Saints forced Favre to make that mistake. They deserve credit.

The blame should fall on Favre for not getting the ball away faster, the protection for not giving Favre enough time, the receivers for taking too long to get open and the offensive play callers who didn’t call plays that gave Favre quicker options not just on the Vikings last offensive play of the game, but throughout the entire game.

Favre Wasn’t the Only Viking to Make Game-Changing Mistakes

Favre made his mistake at the most critical time. All of the pressure was on, last chance, game on the line…

But Minnesota made plenty of mistakes that would have won them the game had they corrected just one of them.

Percy Harvin’s fourth-quarter fumble deep in Vikings territory is the big one we’d be talking about if Favre hadn’t over-shadowed it later, but there were a lot of turnovers, missed tackles and other mistakes that cost the Vikings the game.

It’s a sixty minute game and there are a lot of reasons a team loses. It’s a little ridiculous to focus on just one mistake when there are so many to chose from.

Manning Receives Super Bowl XLI Trophy

Manning Receives Super Bowl XLI Trophy

Early Super Bowl lines are out now and the Indianapolis Colts (-215) are favored by 4.5 points over the New Orleans Saints (+170) and the over/under is 55.5.

I think the odds-makers thinking here is that the Saints defense gave up a too many yards against Minnesota and they expect Manning to only do better.

The one thing going in their favor is that the Saints are ball-hawks and basically won the game against the Vikings on the strength of their turn-overs.

The Saints defense definitely deserves credit for forcing those mistakes. But defense can put an opposing offense in position to make a mistake, but the offense still has to make the mistake.

If Favre hadn’t injured his ankle on an earlier hit, he wouldn’t have thrown that last pick and we wouldn’t even be talking about New Orleans right now.

Minnesota was a solid 4-6 in the red zone, but you have to believe that if Manning gets to the red zone that many times, this game will be a rout.

The other big reason the odds-makers like the Colts is that the Colts burned the number one defense in the NFL for 30 points and, if they can get 30 against the best, how many more will they get against New Orleans.

The total is interesting too. It’s quite high, but the way these two offenses played all season, you could easily make a case for a higher number.

The Super Bowl is the biggest sports betting event of the year and it draws a lot of recreational betting money which tends to bet the over. With all of the hype surrounding these offenses, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the total go up.

It will be interesting to see how these odds move over the next two weeks as money starts to come in.

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