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2017 New Orleans Saints season and team predictions

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You know the narrative by now with the Saints having three straight 7-9 finishes. What does 2017 look like for Sean Payton and company?

NFL: New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just like mock drafts, season predictions have become a huge thing across all writing platforms. Making an educated guess (or just throwing something against the wall and hoping it sticks) is obviously a challenge, but given the New Orleans Saints information from the past several months, there’s a few things we feel pretty good about. Let’s recap and work our way to where the black and gold finish 2017.

2016 season record: 7-9 (3rd in the NFC South)
Splits: 4-4 (Home), 3-5 (Road)
Ranks: Offense (1st in Yards, 2nd in Points For); Defense (27th in Yards, 31st in Points Allowed)

How their season ended: Just like it started, losing. After pulling to 5-6 after a dreadful 0-3 start, the Saints dropped their next two games against the Lions and Buccaneers. They were able to win the next two against the Cardinals and Buccaneers in a rematch, but the Saints dropped their season finale against the Atlanta Falcons in a 38-32 loss.

The Offseason

Losses: Dannell Ellerbe (released), Jairus Byrd (released), Tim Hightower (49ers), Tim Lelito (Titans), Nick Fairley (NFI), Brandin Cooks (trade), Kasim Edebali (Broncos), B.W. Webb (Bears), Roman Harper (not re-signed), Jahri Evans (Packers), Paul Kruger (not re-signed)

Important Newcomers: A.J. Klein (Panthers), Larry Warford (Lions), Adrian Peterson (Vikings), Alex Okafor (Cardinals), Ted Ginn Jr. (Panthers), Manti Te’o (Chargers)

Draft Recap

  • Round 1 (11th Overall): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
  • Round 1 (32nd Overall): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
  • Round 2 (42nd Overall): Marcus Williams, S, Utah
  • Round 3 (67th Overall): Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
  • Round 3 (76th Overall): Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
  • Round 3 (103rd Overall): Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
  • Round 6 (196th Overall): Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami

Game by Game Predictions

Week 1: at Minnesota Vikings (Monday Night Football)

Pick: Saints, 24-16 (1-0)
Thoughts: The Saints defense sets the tone in this contest, as they’ll frustrate Sam Bradford early and often. It’ll be close through halftime, but the Saints will ride some momentum to pull ahead in the 3rd Quarter to get this one.

Week 2: New England Patriots

Pick: Saints, 33-27 (2-0)
Thoughts: Given what we know now, it’s hard to see the Patriots starting the season at 0-2, but let me be that guy to pick the Saints when everyone else takes New England. The Superdome will be firing on all cylinders, and somehow Sean Payton and the Saints offense will be able to capitalize on some of the things Andy Reid was able to accomplish while Dennis Allen’s defense comes up big in the end.

Week 3: at Carolina Panthers

Pick: Panthers, 26-20 (2-1)
Thoughts: The Panthers start their season 2-0 with victories over the 49ers and Bills to restore some confidence. A big NFC South showdown out east will have Ron Rivera’s squad emerge victorious in this early divisional clash.

Week 4: at Miami Dolphins (London)

Pick: Saints, 28-20 (3-1)
Thoughts: I don’t see Jay Cutler beating the Saints in London. Don’t get me wrong. This was a playoff team last year, but you’re starting the season now with three straight road games (yes, technically Week 4 is a home game in London). That’s tough.

Week 5: BYE WEEK

Tough opponent here, they’re undefeated.

Week 6: Detroit Lions

Pick: Saints, 31-20 (4-1)
Thoughts: The Saints have lost three straight to the Lions in three straight years after winning four in a row from 2008-2012. This time around, they’ll be able to solve for Matthew Stafford and company to get a big home victory coming off their bye week.

Week 7: at Green Bay Packers

Pick: Packers, 27-24 (4-2)
Thoughts: The Saints are just 2-10 at Lambeau, with victories coming in 1971 and 2006. You could say they’re due after close games in 2011 and 2012, but the Packers have been pretty stellar at home since 2014 (19-5). I don’t see the Saints coming out on top here, despite a good showing.

Week 8: Chicago Bears

Pick: Saints, 30-13 (5-2)
Thoughts: Right before Halloween, we have Chicagoans in town. This has the makings of something fun outside of the game, but I feel we could be in Mitch Trubisky territory for the Bears. It’ll start close, but the Saints will dominate the second half to take this one.

Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pick: Saints, 27-21 (6-2)
Thoughts: New Orleans has beat Tampa five out of the last six meetings at The Superdome. The Bucs are a better team overall, but they’ll come up just short in this one.

Week 10: at Buffalo Bills

Pick: Bills, 24-20 (6-3)
Thoughts: You might say this is a trap game, and that’s because you’re probably right. I give a ton of credit in this matchup to Sean McDermott in this game, who has plenty of experience facing Drew Brees and the Saints.

Week 11: Washington Redskins

Pick: Redskins, 30-21 (6-4)
Thoughts: Dating back to 2006, the Redskins have won four out of five against the Saints. The lone Saints victory you can easily recall, as 2009’s comeback was just something amazing to watch. Still, Kirk Cousins goes toe-to-toe with Brees in this one, and Washington hands the Saints back-to-back losses.

Week 12: at Los Angeles Rams

Pick: Saints, 32-20 (7-4)
Thoughts: Sean Payton’s squad picks themselves back up after losing two in a row to pick on Jared Goff and company out west. Sadly for the Saints, Gregg Williams isn’t there any longer.

Week 13: Carolina Panthers

Pick: Saints, 34-31 (8-4)
Thoughts: This divisional faceoff is will be reminiscent of 2016’s Superdome matchup, which saw the Saints escape with a 41-38 victory. I believe the Panthers will be better in 2017, but fail to make the playoffs. This one will be one that they wished they had back at the end of the year.

Week 14: at Atlanta Falcons (Thursday Night Football)

Pick: Falcons, 27-19 (8-5)
Thoughts: Riding a big wave off a big NFC South victory, the short week won’t do them any favors facing off against the Falcons. It’ll be close for a while, but somehow Matt Ryan gets the last laugh in this one...and we’ll have to put up with Falcons gloating for a couple weeks.

Week 15: New York Jets

Pick: Saints, 38-10 (9-5)
Thoughts: If we’re basing this on the Jets team right now, then I don’t see much coming from Todd Bowles’ rebuild this season. Perhaps there’s some surprises coming for many opponents, but the Saints aren’t going to be one of them at home.

Week 16: Atlanta Falcons

Pick: Saints, 30-27 (10-5)
Thoughts: In the revenge/rematch game that I feel can get flexed into FOX’s Game of the Week, or some type of big billing, the Saints and Falcons have one of their more traditional battles that come down to the final drive, but see New Orleans come out victorious.

Week 17: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pick: Buccaneers, 26-17 (10-6)
Thoughts: My NFL season predictions have the Buccaneers wining the NFC South and Dirk Koetter finishing as the Coach of the Year. Sticking to that theme, I don’t see this as a case of battling for the division. However, the Saints still get in as a Wild Card while the Bucs already have the division in hand.

Season Thoughts & Predictions

Best Case Scenario: The Saints finish with a 12-win season, sweep the NFC South, and earn Home Field Advantage throughout the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries plague the Saints again, the team falls into another hole early in their season, and end up having to battle for a Wild Card spot in the final weeks, unable to control their own destiny.

Official Record Prediction: 10-6 - I’ve told many that I believed this was a 9-win team at best until proven otherwise, and I feel like I’ve seen enough to warrant a 10th victory on their schedule.

Team MVP Nominee: Drew Brees - In what could be his final season with the Saints, Brees continues to deliver for the team’s potent offense. He’ll singlehandedly win 4-5 games by himself.

Offensive MVP: Drew Brees – One simply does not overlook one of the league’s best quarterbacks for the past decade. Brees is going to flirt with another 5,000-yard season, and with an improved offensive line and the addition of more weapons, you can easily bet on Brees.

Offensive Sleeper: Josh Hill - Not to suggest that Coby Fleener won’t (or should) have more production in the offense this season, but Josh Hill could play a bigger factor with Drew Brees and in the team’s 12 personnel package. I wouldn’t dare say he’ll beat out Fleener in targets, yards, or catches. However, I could see him being a familiar red zone target in 2017, making him haul in more scores than Fleener.

Defensive MVP: Marcus Williams - It’s so tempting to go with obvious choices of Cameron Jordan and A.J. Klein here, but I feel Williams provides a big piece of the puzzle that has been missing from the Saints defense for quite some time. If he can generate at least 4-5 more turnovers for Dennis Allen’s squad, call it a win.

Defensive Sleeper: David Onyemata - The loss of Nick Fairley really leaves a void on the team’s interior line, and there’s certain to be a rotation approach with mainly Onyemata and Tyeler Davison. I peg Onyemata as a player who could potentially break out this season, and at least make up for some of the 22 quarterback hits left on the table without Fairley.

Rookie MVP: Alvin Kamara - He’s the real deal, folks. Look for him to be involved a lot with the Saints’ offense, even with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson in the mix. He’s easily an impact rookie for the team, and is an early candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Most Intriguing Game: Chicago Bears - Week 8’s matchup is right before Halloween. I say this is intriguing because of the Mitchell Trubisky hype. Could he be starting by then? Who knows. However, general manager Ryan Pace, who Saints fans are well aware of, has said he’s using the New Orleans blueprint up in Chicago. I’m curious to see if this Bears team is better than some will give them credit for.

Most Anticipated Game: Atlanta Falcons - Week 14 is a long ways off, but the Saints will be chomping at the bit to take on their most hated NFC South rival. They’ll get to face them twice in three weeks, and you can bet this Thursday Night Football matchup won’t be lacking.

Game You Won’t Forget: New England Patriots - Week 2’s matchup is a battle between two of the greatest quarterbacks headed to the Hall of Fame, and two of the best mastermind coaches the NFL has ever seen. In this bayou rumble, it’s sure to deliver in a big way.