Yes, the New Orleans Saints defense was exposed during the second half of the game against the Oakland Raiders. Yes, things might be looking worse with the injury to Saints CB Delvin Breaux. Yes, the Saints started the season with a loss. But so did 3/4 of the NFC South.
After one week of play in the NFL regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit atop the NFC South with a record of 1-0. The Panthers, Falcons, and Saints all start the season 0-1, with the Falcons taking up the rear based on tie-breakers (their loss coming against a divisional opponent).
Is anyone here honestly worried about the Falcons? Please raise your hand if you truly believe the Falcons might run away with the division. Yeah, I didn't think so. That just leaves the Saints to contend with the Bucs and Panthers.
The Panthers are the reigning NFC Champions and are one of the favorites to win the NFC again this year. In our poll to preview the season, Saints fans predicted the most likely outcome of the Saints and Panthers two meetings was for a Saints loss in both contests. (It should also be noted that the polls also predicted the Saints to lose the season opener against the Raiders but to still finish the season 12-4.) After watching the NFL regular season opener between the Panthers and Broncos, though, there might be many fans out their who would change their vote.
Josh Norman was notably missed from the Panthers secondary. Trevor Siemian, an NFL rookie who had never attempted an NFL pass, was able to hit open receivers all night en route to Broncos victory. Drew Brees should have no trouble dicing up the Panthers secondary and putting up points. Of course, the biggest concern will be if the Saints defense would be able to make enough stops against the reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton, but in an offensive shootout, I like the Saints offense more.
Then there are the Bucs. This is another situation where I look at what the opposing offense was able to accomplish and I breathe a small sigh of relief. Matt Ryan (yes, MATT RYAN) was able to throw for over 300 passing yards in the game. The Bucs, who scored 21 unanswered points from the end of the first half to the end of the third quarter, then let the Falcons score 12 unanswered points in the final quarter and a half of play, to pull the Falcons within one score. In fact, the Falcons were driving to potentially tie the game in the final minute but Matty Ice ran cold and missed on three consecutive pass attempts.
The Saints have won 7 out of the last 8 contests against the Buccaneers. This year's Buc squad is a very beatable team. Their win against the Falcons at home was not dominating or impressive - beating the Falcons at home is almost expected at this point. The fact that Tampa Bay almost blew the lead is what is more important to take away.
The Panthers look human.
The Bucs don't scare me.
The Falcons don't scare anyone.
The New Orleans Saints can win the NFC South.