The kickoff of the 2016 New Orleans Saints season begins with worry and doubt. The offensive line is a disaster, the secondary is depleted, the kicker situation is a joke, the front office has no idea what they're doing! This seems to have been the sentiment for quite some time going into this season, but we really won't know who these Saints are until the season actually begins.
Super Bowl LI will be played in Houston, Texas this coming February, in a venue as close as you can physically get to New Orleans without the game actually taking place in the Superdome itself. Despite the closeness in proximity to the Saints, this team feels as far away from a Super Bowl as it ever has under Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Now here we are, on the doorstep of another Saints campaign, and despite all the dread and uncertainty of the offseason comes another, stronger emotion to wash it all away - Joy.
Joy, that after months and months of waiting, Saints football has returned, and no matter how these games and this season plays out, one thing that we know for certain is that it will be an entertaining ride as always. We tend to forget in all of the fretting over wins and losses, is that it's entertainment at the end of the day. So let's get the entertainment underway!
All season and postseason, Wallace Delery of Canal Street Chronicles will be presenting you with each and every game on the NFL schedule along with my pick for each game. It's been a long wait for this season to begin, so lets get started.
Thursday, September 8th - NFL Kickoff 2016
This "rematch" of Super Bowl 50 will not likely play out the way that game did for a few reasons, namely Denver's quarterback situation. Many have argued that Denver won the Super Bowl despite terrible QB play, thanks to their defense, which remains mostly intact today. The thing about that is despite the terrible play, Denver's QB was one of the greatest in NFL history, not someone who has never thrown an NFL pass in his career, also the Broncos defense was historically great last season, this is a lot to ask for a second consecutive year. Denver is just not as good as they were on Super Sunday.
It's also a lot to ask for Carolina to be 15-1 good again this season. They will likely be among the top 3 teams in the NFC again this season, but they won't be that good. The Panthers, and notably Cam Newton, will have more than enough motivation to pick up a season opening win that will in no way, shape, or form, "avenge" their crushing loss in the game that mattered most.
Sunday, September 11th - Early Games
Expect a tight and tense contest between these NFC South rivals. Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston will make the difference in this one, with a surprisingly solid game in the air against Atlanta's defense.
It would be surprising to see either team attempt a pass in this game. Even though Sam Bradford is a step down from Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, Minnesota will find victory thanks to their rushing attack led by Adrian Peterson.
Cleveland will pick up a solid win over a Philadelphia team in transition with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback. Hue Jackson coaches up the Browns to mild credibility this season.
Much like Arizona, the Bengals have a loaded roster top to bottom, the problem is that it's led by an overrated quarterback. The Jets find themselves in the same situation, but they have the benefit of average QB play. The QB difference, paired with a stronger defense and home field advantage will secure a nice opening win for the Jets.
Kansas City has all the tools necessary to contend in the AFC, they just need more production from the passing game. In San Diego, all they have is the passing game, and it won't be enough to beat the rival Chiefs.
For as well known as Rex Ryan is for his defenses, it will be Buffalo's offense, specifically the ground game, that will lead the Bills to victory in Baltimore.
One of the most anticipated seasons in Texans history begins here against Chicago. For as relentless as the Houston pass rush is, and despite the moves they've made this offseason, don't be surprised to see the Texans struggle this season. They've hitched their season on an unproven quarterback in Brock Osweiler and should things not work out as planned, things could unravel quickly for the defending AFC South champs.
Chicago meanwhile, has quietly made some moves to solidify themselves as a player in the NFC North. Thanks to an offensive line that can keep the pressure off of Jay Cutler, the Bears leave Houston with a surprising victory.
The perennial NFC contenders in Green Bay looks to continue their winning ways with this opener in Jacksonville, where they'll beat the upstart Jags.
Raiders at Saints
In the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era, the Saints are only 5-5 in season openers and just 1-4 in those games over the last five seasons. This doesn't bode well for a Saints team still struggling to find a cohesive identity on the field. The Saints' offensive line may get it together and turn into a decent unit, but it's going to take more than one week for it to happen, and the Raiders can take advantage of that here.
Offensively, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is certain to attack the relatively inexperienced Saints corners with Amari Cooper and the solid Oakland receiving corps. The Saints are going to have to create pressure on Carr without leaving their secondary out to dry. This hopefully improved Saint defensive line will have to prove they're ready for a challenge right out of the gate.
By no means do I expect the Raiders to walk into the Superdome and crush the Saints, but New Orleans will have a 4 quarter fight on their hands, and considering how long its been since they've been in the win column, it is likely victory will elude them here. I cannot wait to be wrong about this game.
Sunday, September 11th - Late Games
The pressure is on in Miami, specifically on Ryan Tannehill, who will be facing pressure from the Seattle defense as well. Although not as great as they once were, the Seattle defense will continue to be one of the league's top units.
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and the dominant Dallas offensive line should face little resistance against Steve Spagnuolo's defense in this game. Honestly, Dallas couldn't have picked a better defense for Dak Prescott to face in his first career start. Eli Manning should potentially have a bounce-back year, but the Giants defense will need to rise to the occasion when he struggles. Dallas wins a very close game here.
Expect a resurgence in Indianapolis this season, after a terrible 2015 campaign plagued with injuries and bad decisions. Sure, their offensive line is still pretty terrible, but there are pieces in place on this team that will make the Colts a dangerous opponent. Indy will get back to winning ways in a weak AFC with a victory here over Detroit.
Sunday Night Football
Just days after the Super Bowl 50 rematch comes the Consolation Bowl, featuring the AFC and NFC runners-up from a season ago. The focus of the game will be on New England interim quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is filling in for a suspended Tom Brady. The true focus should be on Arizona's fraudulent star quarterback Carson Palmer, who will once again keep the NFC's most talented roster, and well coached team out of the Super Bowl with his negative clutch factor.
Here's the thing, it's September, so Palmer will play average enough, backed by his stout defense and home field advantage, to beat the Brady-less Pats in the opener. New England will keep things close but Arizona holds on in the end.
Monday, September 12th - Monday Night Football
The AFC's top offensive unit should rain down points all over the Washington defense in the Monday Night opener.
Even with an unspectacular Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Chip Kelly's offense should have just enough surprises to pick up the home win over Los Angeles in a low scoring affair.
That's how I see it, tell us how you see Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season unfolding. Leave your comments and insight below. Finally, Saints football is back! WHO DAT!!!