Just How Far Can the Saints Go in 2009?

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Look… I’ve been a Saints fan all my life. I’ve begun every season with high hopes, and I’ve had my dreams crushed in just about every year (usually by the midway point of the season). That’s just the life of a Saints fan.

Let’s be honest… the Saints went 20 years before getting their first winning season. Until 1987, I was happy just to see the Saints play competitively.

The truth is… I was gunning for an 8-8 season just so we could avoid being ‘losers’ again.

All that changed in 1982… under Head Coach O.A. “Bum” Phillips, we sported one of the best defenses in the league and continued to do so for years. We failed to make the playoffs during the ’82 season, a strike-shortened season which found the Saints at 4-5, a mere tiebreaker away from reaching our first-ever playoff game. But we had a good team (Rickey Jackson, Hoby Brenner, Bruce Clark, Jim Wilks, Morten Andersen, Brad Edleman, Stan Brock) and a chance to beat everyone we faced.

In fact… by the time Head Coach Jim Mora came along (adding the final pieces to the puzzle like Sam Mills, Bobby Hebert, Vaughn Johnson, Pat Swilling, Eric Martin, Jim Dombrowski, Dalton Hillard, Rueben Mayes), we became a very good team, and winning became a tradition.

From 1986-1992, we were 69-42… a far cry from our franchise’s overall winning percentage of .411 (262-375-5). We expected to win every game because we were a very good team, and it was a fun time for fans of the Bless You Boys.

My point is… I find that in this point in our franchise’s existence, we are once again a very good team, and I expect our team to win every game because we are that good.

We all know Drew Brees is a great QB… we could see that after his first year here. But if anybody would’ve predicted he would put up the numbers he had last year before that season began, the fan would’ve been deemed a dreamer and a homer with unrealistic goals.

I don’t know about you guys, but although we went 8-8 last year, I had a great time watching the Saints play… and it was because we were a really good team.

I’m used to the disappointment. I bleed Black and Gold, but my world doesn’t come crashing down every time they lose. Honestly, I moan and gripe for about two days, and then I’m over it.

I quit wearing my heart on my sleeve after the 1992 season… that year was the best team we ever fielded (imo). We won 12 games in the regular season, we finished 10th in scoring offense and 1st in scoring defense, we allowed 202 points total (12.6 ppg, the lowest mark our franchise ever allowed), we collected 38 turnovers (+9), we had 57 sacks (#1 in NFL), we gave up only 15 sacks, and we lost only four games by a combined 13 points.

We got our hind ends handed to us by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wildcard game, 36-20. No team scored over 21 points against us all year in the regular season… NOT ONE TEAM SCORED OVER 21 POINTS AGAINST US ALL YEAR!!! And only four teams scored more than 16. We gave up 38 points to the Eagles, and I went nuts… kucko… bonkers… I friggin’ lost it. I got so depressed, I realized I had to stop doing it to myself. So my heart went back in my chest, where it remains to this day. I still get depressed, but not manic.

The team we have now is capable of greatness… and not just a really good team with decent stats to make the playoffs… I mean GREATNESS.

At first, we all knew if our defense could just raise their level of play to some form of respectability (#16-#20 in the NFL), we would be ultra-competitive. But after two preseason games, it’s fair to assume that the sky is the limited with our defense. We are creating turnovers and holding teams out of the end zone with basic vanilla formations. Just the change in attitude and coaching on the defensive side of the ball is causing this. Once scheme comes into play, the sky is literally the limited.

And our offense looks better than ever. Drew is Drew, Reggie is Reggie, Colston is Colston. But we’ve seen the level of play rise with Mark Brunell, Jeremy Shockey, Mike Bell, and Robert Meachem, and we still have Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Billy Miller, and our stellar offensive line… all major contributors last season. Plus, we are seeing great development out of players like Adrian Arrington, Rod Harper, and Jermon Bushrod.

I think it’s safe to say… our offense will be one of the best in the league, and it is not unrealistic to predict them finishing #1 overall again this year (the lowest we’ve ranked in total offense over the last three years is #4).

The tricky part is predicting the defensive ranking for this coming year. Over the last three years, our overall defense ranked 11th, 26th, and 23rd. When it ranked 11th, we went all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Last year, we barely avoided a losing record.

I think it’s safe to say… our defense will improve dramatically, and a ranking of around #20 is expected NO DOUBT. I also think a ranking of around #15 is not unrealistic but in fact very possible and could be considered easily anticipated over what we’ve seen in training camp and the preseason games. A highly optimistic expectation from us Saints fans would be a defense that ranks in the Top 10.

The only time the New Orleans Saints have EVER ranked in the top 10 in both overall offense and overall defense was in 2000 (10th on offense, 8th in defense). That year, we got 66 sacks and won our first-ever playoff game. The only other time we ever really got close was in 1992 (14th offense, 2nd defense) and 2006 (1st offense, 11th defense).

Like I mentioned before, in 1992 we were 10th scoring offense and 1st scoring defense. As far as scoring offense and scoring defense goes, we got into the top 10 in both categories (or close to it) a few times… 1987 (12-3 record, 2nd offense, 5th defense), 1989 (9-7 record, 5th offense, 11th defense), 1991 (11-5 record, 8th offense, 1st defense), and 2006 (10-6 record, 5th offense, 13th defense).

Overall… I expect our team to be competitive against everybody we face (just like last year only better). I expect us to win big vs the lesser teams, and I still expect us to beat the better teams. I think the offense will rank 1st in yardage and 1st in scoring, and I expect the defense to rank 15th or better in yardage and scoring.

The most games we’ve ever won in a regular season is 12 (1987, 12-3 and 1992, 12-4). I expect us to meet that goal and post 12 wins this year. I really feel like we have a complete team, and if we lose a few games, it will be because of the little things that still haunts us to even this preseason (failed points in the red zone, missed FGs, stupid penalties), which in turn could cost us a game by about 3 points.

But it is not unrealistic to expect great things overall from the Black and Gold this year.

Delusions of graneur? You thought it before? It never fails? Typical Saints football?

Iknow… I know… I’m there with you. My heart is not on my sleeve. It’s in my chest… though the blood it pumps is Black and Gold. And my head is very clear on this.

We are a very good team, and our time is now.

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9 Responses to “Just How Far Can the Saints Go in 2009?”

  1. realheavyd says:

    I could go for a 12-4 season this year and a division championship on top of that! I think it’s very possible and highly likely that they will get better and better all year long to climax in the playoffs and make it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2010! You just gotta believe people!!!

  2. They will go only as far as the defense takes them. Offensively they are top notch, but the O and D have to work together to make it happen. I see them with 8-10 wins this season.

  3. Martie Hoover says:

    And what about Grant running down the great Chad Ochocinco? I was really impressed with the Saint’s play this week. Go Saints! (I have to rout for the Redskins too. Kind of in the same boat there for years.)

  4. Eric says:

    Drew Brees’ arm can only do so much. Without a solid, consistent running attack , their team will fold at the end of games and late in the season.

    If their revamped defense steps up, the NO Saints might be able to challenge ATL for the south crown.

  5. Joseph Guidry says:

    Keep up with the Falcons?

    Yeah,,, like Michael Turner can carry the ball 400 times a season. What good is a running attack when your team is losing by three TDs?

    No luck for the Falcons here. You guys will have to suck it up. The Saints are the best in the NFC South.

  6. MIKE says:

    1st and far most the Falcons do not have a prayer against the Saints or any one else for that matter. As for Drew Brees and his arm I mean come on the man has put up amazing numbers with lets face it less than great players. Now that Shockey is 100% and Henderson looks to be catching better so far I believe with Thomas Bell and Hamilton we should get the job done on the ground and let’s not forget Bush anytime he is on the field the defense has to be worried. I believe the Saints will win the NFC South hands down and they have a very good chance at making it to the DANCE!!!!!!!!!

  7. Jesse says:

    Its so hard to talk to family that is just casual fans about the upcoming season because they think i sound crazy and bring up last year. I to think we will go 12-4 and thought last year we wouldd at least go 11-5, but what i try to explain to people about last year (and what i cant believe you didnt mention in your article) is that even though we were 8-8 you have to take into account (and i never use injuries as an excuse or anything but when its to the extent we were last year u cant just ignore it) we had the most injuries in the league with 15 outta 22 starters hurt for multiple games, played in the the only division that every team finished .500 or above, and still 6 of our 8 losses were by a combined 18 points!! Thats an average of getting beat by a field goal for 6 of your 8 losses even though we were playing 3rd and 4th string CBs, WRs, RBs, and LBs.

  8. Jesse says:

    I feel we had the talent last year to do big big things but no team can withstand that amount of injuries. If not for having the best QB in the league we may not have won 2 games last year, thats how bad the injuries were. You have teams like Arizona playing in the worst division in the league and beating up on those teams because they play them each 2 times a year and win their division and get into the playoffs with a record like 9-7 and have NO other teams in their division finish over .500 and then you have us stuck in the best division having to play all them 2 times and year and we finish 8-8 but are at the bottom of our division.

  9. Joseph Guidry says:

    I’ve mentioned in several other articles just how dominant the NFC South was last year, though I did fail to mention it here. Also, the fact that we lost 6 games by a combined 18 points is something most fans of football realize (I’ve heard that defense on several reports throughout the offseason). That was one of the reasons I mentioned the 1992 season – in contrast. Only four teams scored 16 or more points against us that year, and our four losses in 1992 came by a combined 13 points.

    It’s a great point towards defending our improvement over the last two years (despite missing out on a winning record and the playoffs). In 2007, we lost our first four games and the first three were by an average of 21 points per game. Last year, we lost six games by a combined 18 points. It’s a stark difference, and I think it reflects the progression of our defense from a personel standpoint.

    This year, our focus in practice on the running game combined with a better kicker and a new defensive coordinator and an upgrade on defensive personel should close the gap from those six losses.