Part Three of Three
This is what the 2012 New Orleans Saints are trying to make, and it is also what they will be fighting against. The long and arduous path to Super Bowl XLVII ends in New Orleans and the Saints need only look at the turf beneath their feet to see their destination. Not only does the Lombardi Trophy await the last team standing on Super Sunday, but for the Saints redemption awaits as well.
The Saints have every excuse in the world to tank this season, and few would blame them for failure in 2012. It will take a mentally tough and united franchise to make success out of the events of this offseason and the Saints will face tests no other franchise has faced before. Ultimately, the Saints have far more reasons to succeed and redeem themselves than they do to fail this season.
Can the Saints win Super Bowl XLVII at home and make NFL history? Absolutely. Will they pull off this unprecedented feat? Well, in a word...
In part one I chronicled the historical difficulty of a host franchise playing in a Super Bowl and how it has never been done before. In part two I explored the difficulties and distractions the Saints could face in hosting a Super Bowl. In the end though, it is my opinion that the negatives and historical difficulties will be outweighed by varying factors that will work in the Saints favor this season.
Despite the loss of Sean Payton for the season, his philosophy and architecture are deeply entrenched within the organization. It is his lieutenants and his captains that will lead the Saints in 2012. The people that Sean Payton leave in charge have had trust in him and surely he has trust in them. I have chronicled the impact that a coaching staff and quarterback can have on a franchise when the head coach is no longer in the picture. The Saints should see continued success without Payton.
The NFL's most feared offense remains in tact and the Saints defense finds itself better prepared to complement this offense than they did in the last two seasons. The Saints stability in their leadership core will fill the vacuum left by Coach Payton. He will be too valuable to replace, but the Saints can weather the storm for one season without him and balance the ship toward success.
The Saints just needed a little more defense at just the right time to potentially win another Super Bowl last season. The Saints are just a little balance away from dangerous to dominant. In defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and some key free agent signings, the Saints may just have found that balance. With Coach Spags, the Saints should find themselves in a more balanced and productive defense. Not as tepid as under Gibbs, and not as reckless and predictable as under Williams.
The Saints offense will likely not break records as they did in 2011 and it would not be surprising to see the Saints be a slight step slower without Coach Payton, but they should still be among the top 3 offenses in the league. The Saints don't need to be the NFL's all time greatest offense to win the Super Bowl, they just need the balance between the defense and offense to keep their opponents off balance. With their talented roster, this season the Saints should achieve that balance.
This may very well be the most talented roster in New Orleans Saints history. Brees, Graham, Sproles, and Co., how can you contain them? Lofton, Greer, Jenkins, and the rest, how do you attack them? From top to bottom this Saints team is as talented as any team in the NFL in 2012 and will be intimidated by no one. Talent alone should make the Saints a playoff contender, it is the leadership, strategy, and determination behind that talent that will lead the Saints to a title this season.
Although no host franchise has ever played in the Super Bowl, at least since 2001 no host franchise has had the talent and Super Bowl pedigree during their host season that Saints have in 2012. This combination of talent and balance will lead the Saints to success. The Saints are uniquely poised to make history and find the redemption they seek for their franchise and fan base.
This season the Saints will be playing not only for a Super Bowl title but for redemption of their franchise and reputation. Redemption can be a powerful motivator, especially knowing that redemption can be had under your own roof in front of the whole world. The motivation for the Saints couldn't possibly be clearer. "Do your job" and focus on the goal ahead and redemption will be yours.
As fans, Who Dat Nation will continue to support the Saints with unwavering loyalty. The Saints will look to reward their fans in their own hometown. With this unprecedented amount of motivation, the Saints will be a very dangerous and determined opponent this season. The expectations from Who Dat Nation and the Saints themselves will be high in 2012.
Although the expectations in New Orleans and among Saints fans are high, the expectations of the Saints around the league and in the media are much lower. The majority of media "experts" have the Saints finishing behind the "dominant" Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, some have even picked the Saints to finish out of the playoff race. They feel that the Saints cannot overcome the sanctions and distractions of the offseason.
These low national expectations may be to the Saints advantage this season. Let those "high-flying" Falcons and Cam & the Panthers deal with lofty expectations of NFC South glory this season. The Saints won't have the NFL's best record in 2012, but the team with the best record usually doesn't win the Super Bowl. In the Payton era, the Saints have always played their best when the least has been expected of them. It's time to show the league that the Saints have no plans to lay down and die. Not as long as Who Dat Nation has unwavering faith in their Saints.
When it comes down to it, as long as you are a Saints fan you've got to have faith that they are going to pull this thing off. Without faith in the organization and the team on the field, it could be a long, nail-biting season. For any fan base it is faith that the team will exceed expectations that brings in the excitement. As a Saints fan this year it is faith in the Saints that will cast aside the negativity of the offseason.
The Saints as a team will need to have faith in their team leaders, coaching staff, and front office. Faith has been a theme for the Saints since Katrina and the theme has never been stronger. As long as we, as Saints fans keep our faith in the team, the Saints will have their fans to pick them up when times seem tough. On Super Sunday, our faith in the Saints will be rewarded with victory and redemption.
So, yes, it is my belief that the Saints will make NFL history and become Super Bowl XLVII Champions. Who do I think the Saints will defeat in the Super Bowl?
The Pittsburgh Steelers. Why? Well, since 2003 only the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Indianapolis Colts have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. Without Peyton Manning, the Colts are officially out of the AFC elite class. That only leaves the Patriots and Steelers as AFC royalty and they, along with Houston and Baltimore are clearly the AFC's best teams going into the 2012 season.
The Patriots are the overwhelming choice as AFC Champion and it is almost the obvious choice. The leagues best team (record wise) has not had much success in winning the Super Bowl over the last decade. The last team with the league's best record to win the Super Bowl was the 2003 New England Patriots. New England should have a better record than Pittsburgh but as you can see, records aren't everything.
Pittsburgh is older on defense, but still supremely talented and well coached. They should be very motivated and invigorated with a new offensive scheme this season. Now, at the end of their window, they will give it one last shot. They could provide the Saints with a fantastic Super Bowl matchup, if it is anything like their last matchup at the Dome (Halloween Night 2010) then we could see a classic.
The only thing more foolish than predicting a Super Bowl matchup during Week 1 would be predicting a score and, well, I won't be doing that. I have faith in the Saints and I, like the rest of Who Dat Nation, am excited about the 2012 season. Here's to 2012 New Orleans Saints, Who Dat!