OVER THE HUMP: The Saints Seek Super Bowl After a Trio of Postseason Heartbreaks
Aug 11 2020

Over the Hump: The Saints Seek Super Bowl After a Trio of Postseason Heartbreaks

By: Andrew Alexander

It's another case of déjà vu for the New Orleans Saints.

Heading into this season, the Saints are once again the defending NFC South Champions and owners of a heartbreaking playoff loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. For three seasons, the Saints have been the cream of the crop in the NFC, with a combined regular-season record of 37-11 and three straight division titles, but they have failed to reach the franchise's second Super Bowl.

As quarterback Drew Brees enters his 20th season, it is fair to wonder how much the star veteran has left in the tank. Fortunately, Brees is surrounded by one of his deepest and most talented supporting casts in franchise history, which is important, considering six- time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady joined the NFC South in the offseason as the new quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Brees vs. Brady matchup in Week 1 cannot get here soon enough.

Offense

The Saints return many of the playmakers who have made its offense one of the most dangerous and unpredictable in the league, including wide receiver Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara, and tight end Jared Cook. Plus, the addition of former Pro- Bowler Emmanuel Sanders should give the receiving corps a boost.

One of the most versatile weapons at Brees's disposal is do-it-all player Taysom Hill. Listed as the third-string quarterback on the team depth chart, Hill has a unique skillset that has endeared him to the Who Dat faithful. The black and gold folk hero can run, pass, catch, block, and tackle, embracing a spirit of humility to help fill whatever role is necessary to further the team's success.

Hill's wild-card round performance against the Vikings was one of the few bright spots for the Saints in the tough playoff loss, during which he amassed 50 yards passing, 50 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving, and a touchdown. The former BYU quarterback scored eight total touchdowns, including seven touchdown catches last season, and could be featured even more in this year's offense.

With an abundance of weapons for Brees to work with and a stout offensive line to protect him, the 41-year-old quarterback should have no problems getting New Orleans's offense humming again.

Defense

A major key to the franchise's resurgence the past three years has been the significant improvements to the defense. Once a liability for the Saints, that side of the ball is now loaded with talent.

Star defensive end Cam Jordan is coming off a career year with 15.5 sacks, and if defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins are fully healthy, the Saints could have another fearsome pass-rushing unit.

The heart and soul of the Saints defense is All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis. The three- down linebacker will be joined by two Saints recovering from injuries: Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso, the latter of whom suffered his third torn ACL during the playoff loss to Minnesota. In the secondary, the Saints have one of the top cornerback tandems in the league. Marshon Lattimore has locked down opposing receivers in New Orleans for three seasons, while Janoris Jenkins returns after being claimed off waivers by the team in mid-December.

If the injured Saints return to form, this has the potential to be one of the nastiest units in the league.


Special Teams

Rookie Deonte Harris was an unexpected burst of energy last season in the return game. The undrafted free agent finished the season as the NFL leader in punt returns, combined returns, and punt-return yards. Harris earned All-Pro honors and was one of a handful of players in the NFL to have a punt-return touchdown last season.

In the kicking game, Pro-Bowler Wil Lutz returns after one of his best seasons. Lutz connected on nearly 89 percent of his field goals last year, while missing just one of his 49 PATs.

Prediction

The Saints have the talent, depth, and motivation to exorcise their postseason demons and make it to Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Their worst enemy in the playoffs may be themselves, and if that's the case, can the Saints get over the hump and hoist the Lombardi Trophy again? New Orleans: 13-3, NFC South Champions, Super Bowl LV.

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