With a quarter of the season already played out and our beloved Saints with a 1-3 record, many have already stuck a fork in them. I won’t mention any names, but the initials of one are Dave Cariello.
The playoffs are not out of the possibilities. After all, the Panthers won the division in 2014 with a 7-8-1 record. You might say, but the Falcons. Well, they started out strong in 2015, 5-0 to be exact, and then went on to meltdown the rest of the year. They finished second in the division with an 8-8 record, only one game ahead of the Saints.
To date, the Panthers and the Buccaneers both have the same record as the black and gold at 1-3. This division is still wide open in my opinion, but the possibility of actually playing in the Super Bowl this year is not one I would place a bet on.
With that in mind, lets’s take a look at the 2017 season. First of all, the Saints will be in the best cap situation we’ve had in many years. The cap is expected to grow to about $165 million, and the front office has almost $10 million to carry over. Bear in mind that carry over number is in flux, especially the way injuries have piled up so far in 2016. Still, we can probably expect $30-40 million in cap space for 2017. That is with only 45 players still under contract, but with the available cap space Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton can misspend vast amounts.
So, why don’t we take a look at next year’s opponents? You might say we have no idea who the team will play, but in reality only two teams are unknown. Of course, the Saints play NFC South teams twice, so that is six games.
At home, from the NFC North the team will host the Bears, Lions, and a NFC East opponent yet to be determined. This will be the team with the same standing as the Saints at the end of the season. Chicago and Detroit are far from daunting prospects at this time. Also hosting at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be AFC North opponents the Patriots and the Jets. Both of these teams will be challenges, but we are fortunate to have them in our house.
Away games include our division rivals as well as the other two teams from the NFC North, the Packers and Vikings. The Saints also play a NFC West team who matches their standings. Green Bay is always a challenge with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Vikings are a surprisingly strong team, considering they have lost both their starting QB and star RB Adrian Peterson. The Vikings defense is a daunting prospect to face this year, but each season is often different from the previous. From the AFC, the Saints will travel to face the Bills and Dolphins. Buffalo currently stands at 2-2, and Miami could possibly be in worse disarray than the Saints with a 1-3 record.
Barring the Saints go into a full rebuilding mode, the team will have Drew Brees leading the offense for at least one more season. The big question remains, as always it seems, the defense. I’ve actually seen encouraging signs from our young players and hope a year of maturity will carry over into next season. If the Saints can continue to draft adequately (and Payton can resist the temptation to trade away picks for that shiny new toy), play to our strengths instead of trying to force square pegs into round holes, then we may actually have a middle-of-the-pack defense.
So in summation, if you’ve already written off 2016, remember that age old Saints fan adage, “There’s always next year.”