Please allow me to elaborate. First of all, we have two games against the Panthers and Buccaneers apiece and those franchises are still in rebuilding mode. We have two games against the Falcons, against whom we should at least go 1-1. And the rest of the schedule looks quite manageable, although we have no idea what the order of the games is. The full NFL schedule isn't due out until April.
One of the things that has gone unnoticed in the aftermath of the Bountygate rulings is that our schedule is fairly light this season.
Chargers at Saints: The Chargers are a good team that always seems to shoot itself in the foot, especially on the road. Plus, they always let premium talent walk out the door. It will be an interesting homecoming for Robert Meachem. In any case, I believe the Saints can handle this one no problem.
Eagles at Saints: This one I'm not too sure about. The Saints have done well recently against the Eagles, but their defense was looking mighty dominant during the second half of last season. I'm still going to chalk this up as a win due to the fact that Drew Brees is way better than Michael Vick.
Redskins at Saints: Rookie quarterback. Enough said.
49ers at Saints: You better believe the Saints are going to bring something extra to this battle. I want to see Alex Smith on the ground over and over again.
Saints at Cowboys: Last time the Saints traveled to Dallas, there were over 30,000 proud members of the Who Dat nation in the stands, according to Joe Buck. If we can replicate this feat in 2012, the Saints should have an even money chance at winning this game.
Saints at Giants: This could pose a challenge, especially if it takes place late in the season during inclement weather. But the Giants have lost key players this year to free agency, such as Aaron Ross, Mario Manningham, and Brandon Jacobs. The Saints have embarrassed the Giants several times in a row now, and I think Brees and company can pull this one out.
Saints at Packers: I don't see us winning this one, but you never know.
Saints at Broncos: This game depends entirely on the health of Peyton Manning. My theory is that he's not going to be nearly as effective as he was in Indianapolis. We shall see if my theory holds up, but I see the Saints winning here.
Saints at Raiders: Another team in massive rebuilding mode. If we lose to the incompetent Raiders, I'll be severely depressed.
Overall, I really see us going no worse than 10-6 even without Sean Payton. It really depends on how many of our defensive starters get suspended. If it's just Vilma, no worries. If the list includes Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis, and others, then I think we have genuine cause for concern.
Here is my list of predictions:
I see us possibly going 12-4, but a lot of that will depend on Steve Spagnuolo's ability to whip our defense into shape. It also depends on other things, such as officiating (payback?), and how effective Drew Brees will be. Is he going to have a 2011 type season? Or just a 2010 type season? In any case, I really do not see how we can go worse than 10-6. Do not forget, during the 62-7 blowout of the Colts last season, Pete Carmichael was making the offensive calls.
And one last idea I will leave you with is that after the Patriots got busted for Spygate, they had an undefeated regular season and came within a couple minutes of winning the Super Bowl. Granted, they still had Belicheat, but still. It would be an awesome feat if the Saints could find a way to make the playoffs this year. Kind of a big "f**k you!" to all of our detractors.