The kickoff of the 2020 New Orleans Saints season begins with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Not only has the football world turned upside down since Kansas City lifted the Lombardi Trophy in February, but the actual world has as well. Despite all of the turmoil around us, America turns its eyes toward the NFL, and specifically, New Orleans turns its attention towards the Saints. This Saints team is easily the deepest and most talented in franchise history. The Saints front office has built the Super Bowl favorite in the NFC and now its up to the players and coaches to live up to this teams promise. They kick off their highly anticipated campaign this week at home against their NFC South rivals in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Once again, the Saints are poised to finally bring New Orleans its second Lombardi title. With the combination of a health, luck, and a season that is allowed to see its completion, this team should do just that. This has all the makings of a team focused to finally win the title. Focused to win as the Drew Brees era comes to its close. Focused to make good on the promises set over the past three seasons. The Saints have the everything they need to get them to Tampa next February for Super Bowl LV. Their path to Tampa in February begins against Tampa in Week 1.
We are constantly reminded we live in “unprecedented times” and this Saints season, this NFL season, stands equally without precedent. The Saints carry a unique opportunity to turn an unprecedented season into an unforgettable one.
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 10th - NFL Kickoff 2020
The reigning Super Bowl Champions will unveil their Super Bowl LIV in front of nearly 17,000 of the Arrowhead faithful, roughly 20% of what they were expecting to have in attendance back in February, which feels like it was 24 months ago now. The crowd may be small and well-distanced but they will certainly cheer as loudly as they can for the banner they've waited 50 years to see. The team should be as good as usual with the outstanding Patrick Mahomes under center. It should be no surprise to see them reign supreme in the AFC once again this year.
Houston has made some very notable moves once again this offseason, and not necessarily for the better. Head coach and general manager Bill O’ Brien simply can't seem to help himself and he hasn't really helped his team. They win despite him it seems, and as long as the talented Deshaun Watson is starting at quarterback, the Texans have a chance, even in a sneaky good division (outside of Jacksonville) in the AFC South. Watson will sling it with Mahomes in this season-opening thriller, but Mahomes will come through with the win, just like January’s massive comeback turned blowout Divisional playoff win. This one will be much closer, but Kansas City will once again be victorious. Kansas City wins 38-31.
Sunday, September 13th - Early Games
Eagles at Washington F.T.
Despite entering this season as the reigning NFC East champion, Philadelphia is being slept on once again, but don't be surprised if they contend with Dallas for the crown, for a while at least. Most of that depends on the the health of Carson Wentz and the play of the Eagles receiving corps. The Eagles wideouts dropped virtually every pass in sight last season, but still found a way to win the division in spite of it. Philly has to be better at receiver if they want to have a chance at the playoffs this season.
Washington, well, they're just Washington, and that's difficult as it is. The “Football Team” has a young quarterback with potential, but can his offensive line keep him upright? They have a new head coach in Ron Rivera, but does he have anything to work with? They have a team but they don't even have a name or a logo, but with a roster like theirs does it even matter? Probably not. They’ll score some points because its the wild west of the preseason-less Week 1, but this will be the first of many losses for “Football Team” this year. Philadelphia wins 35-27.
A new era is on the horizon for Miami with first round pick Tua Tagovialoa waiting in the wings behind veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Head coach Brian Flores has used a myriad of draft picks to begin building the team in his image, shedding the failures of the past regimes, but it will take some time. Buffalo and New England are still ahead of Miami, but with time and fruition of their offseason moves, Miami can close the gap. Hey, they aren't the Jets.
A new era has officially arrived in New England as Tom Brady has moved on to spend his
golden years in Florida like countless retirees before him. To take up his post is the enigmatic Cam Newton, who if healthy, will add a dynamic to the Pats offense we have never seen under Bill Belichick. The Patriots were written off as dead and buried post-Brady, but with Newton under center and a typically soft division in front of them, New England will likely be back on top of the AFC East as usual. New England wins 34-14.
Green Bay was good last season but nowhere near as good as their record indicated. Their trip to the NFC title game in January wasn't necessarily a fluke, but the series of events that had to occur to set them up with that opportunity was outrageous. Once they had their doors blown off in San Francisco, it became obvious to even the most casual observer. Instead on building upon the opportunities given to them last year, the Pack used the offseason to build tension and strife rather than addressing obvious needs.
Minnesota on the other end quietly built upon their strengths and weaknesses that presented themselves in the playoffs, making the Vikings the true team to beat in the NFC North this year. Green Bay may have had the best of Minnesota last year, but the tide will be turned this season, starting with Week 1. Minnesota wins 22-13.
Philip Rivers comes into Indianapolis with a great pedigree behind him and a surprising amount of talent and health still in him at this stage of his career. Rivers may likely be a post-Andrew Luck stopgap until the future franchise quarterback is drafted, but Frank Reich has a QB that can get this team where they thought they could be before Luck’s surprise retirement a year ago. Jacksonville on the other hand, has shed talent at a steady rate and is destined for the AFC South cellar. Despite this assured fate, the Jags will actually put up a close fight here at home, thanks to the high amount of offense and lack of defensive cohesion we will see league-wide at the start. Indianapolis wins 27-26.
Detroit, well, its just hard to tell what you're getting with them. Talent is there, coaching isnt terrible, but they just don't inspire much confidence. They can certainly surprise, but just don't bet on it. Chicago will start off the season with Mitchell Trubisky once again under center instead of former Super Bowl hero, Nick Foles. This win will give the Chicago faithful a false sense of hope that their overdrafted QB has finally turned the corner, thanks to the competition. I almost pity them. Chicago wins 22-17.
Carolina is much better off with Teddy Bridgewater under center than the litany of substandard QB’s that started in place of Cam Newton last year. Teddy can win, and he will be efficient and smart but he is also facing a drastic downgrade in supporting offensive talent at every level. It will be up to Christian McCaffrey to be the offense’s lone explosive player once again. Carolina’s new coaching staff has nice pedigree, but the deficiencies in talent on every level will keep them firmly entrenched in the NFC South cellar. The Raiders have their big debut under the lights off the Las Vegas Strip next Monday Night against the Saints, and they will go into it with a 1-0 record. Las Vegas wins 23-20.
Buffalo could almost feel their fingertips on the AFC East crown, until Cam Newton pulled New England back into the saddle, but they will still contend. Points will be at a high here in Week 1, but not in this game. Not because the defenses are remarkable, but because the offenses are abysmal. If there’s one to skip in Week 1, its this one. Buffalo wins 14-12.
Following a brutal playoff disappointment in January, Baltimore is focused on contending for the AFC title once again this season, and that they will. But unlike last season, the Ravens won't be given any time to ramp up expectations. Lamar Jackson will be expected to be the MVP from the first snap and won't have the opportunity for his team to “sneak up” on anyone. Their goal, and the expectation set for them, is to beat out Kansas City in the AFC.
Expectations will be tempered in Cleveland after their disastrously overhyped season a year ago. They could be good, they could be a trainwreck, there likely won't be an inbetween. Familiarity with the opponent coupled with wildly different expectations will make this game drastically closer than anyone would think. Despite this, Baltimore will hang on to win a surprising nail biter. Baltimore wins 28-27.
Atlanta is lucky they have Carolina in the division to lock down fourth place, leaving third place as the Falcons’ landing spot this year. Their splashiest signing of the offseason was bringing home the arthritic former All-Pro running back, Todd Gurley to Georgia. That’s nice.
While novices continue to fawn over Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson continue to keep together a team that will outpace those teams and contend for the NFC West title once again. This one will be close, just like most Seattle/Atlanta matchups tend to be, but Russell Wilson’s play will be the difference as usual. Seattle wins 28-26.
Sunday, September 13th - Late Games
Los Angeles will be one of the true enigma teams this season. There is a great deal of talent on their roster and a new stadium in which to showcase it, but where they had been stable for so long is now where they find themselves most deficient, at quarterback.
Quarterback is where Cincinnati looks to finally build their future, starting this season, where first overall pick and LSU quarterback legend, Joe Burrow starts his highly anticipated career with the Bengals. Cincy has faltered and floundered for quite some time now, but the Ohio native QB may very well provide the spark they need to reach respectability. That starts here at home against the Chargers. Cincinnati wins 24-21.
San Francisco is about to suffer the fate of the Super Bowl loser, much like we saw a year ago in Los Angeles. San Francisco’s hopes aren't helped by the fact that their receiving corps has been demolished over the offseason, putting all the pressure squarely on the shoulders of tight end George Kittle to bail out quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
On the opposite side of the field is a team poised to be the surprise playoff team of the season. With an offense led by the dynamic upstart QB Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury will ascend as the NFC West’s new “offensive genius” of the year. Arizona will find themselves squeaking out the division title when the dust settles after a season-long neck and neck race with Seattle.
This game will have all the fireworks that should be expected of high-tempo offenses in Week 1, and like they will be all season, the Cards will be the better team. Arizona wins 32-27.
Buccaneers at Saints - Game of the Week
The Saints enter this season as the favorite in the NFC to advance to Super Bowl LV and look to win their fourth-consecutive NFC South Championship. The Saints have all the tools necessary to beat Tampa in this opening matchup, but they have to do what failed them during the playoffs over the last three seasons, they must keep pressure off Drew Brees, giving him time to work the ball to his multitude of weapons. Primarily, they have to keep the pass rush away from Brees or those weapons are nullified. Tampa may not be supremely talented on the back end but their defensive front is formidable, and the Saints offensive line will need to be up to the challenge.
On defense, the Saints have the players to field another stellar defense this season, and they have the defensive weapons to counteract Tampa’s offensive counterparts. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette, are the most notable weapons that join the ever-dangerous Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the Tampa offense this season, giving head coach Bruce Arians quite a bit of talent (albeit aged talent) to work with. The Saints will have their hands full attempting to counteract this attack.
Unfortunately, Dennis Allen’s defenses always tend to struggle in the opening week, and that trend will likely continue here against the dangerous pairing of Tom Brady and Mike Evans. The 2020 Saints defense will be significantly better than they will show in this game, but it will take this game to work some of those kinks out as it always seems to do. We've seen this play out year after year for the Saints in Week 1, so don't be surprised in the results.
Before last season, the Saints hadn’t won a season opener in six years and it took an exorcism-like effort to end that ugly trend, much to the chagrin of the emotional and physical well being of every Saints fan watching that game. Expect more of the same here, folks. Unfortunately, Brady will get his, and he’ll get a lot, but fortunately, Brees and the Saints offense will get more. A late score by the Saints in the closing moments will secure victory for the home team, and secure first place in the NFC South for New Orleans to start the season. Saints win 37-31.
Sunday Night Football
Dallas will be the team with arguably the most amount of eyeballs on them this season, which isn't really unfamiliar, but the expectations might not be higher since before the turn of the century. They have significantly underachieved in recent years, climaxing with last season’s abysmal ineptitude. The roster pieces have been set in place and, finally, the coaching staff has been gutted and overhauled. Simply put, the excuses have run out for the Cowboys.
Los Angeles is hoping for a reset themselves, looking to rebound from their Super Bowl loss slump season. Their biggest addition is a shiny new pigskin palace in Inglewood that rivals Dallas’ own JerryWorld™ in sheer size and spectacle. Ironically enough, Jerry Jones is as responsible for the creation of SoFi Stadium as he is his own AT&T Stadium. The Rams have absolutely upgraded in stadiums but not nearly as much in the players that will play in that stadium.
The NFC West will be one of the most difficult division in the league whereas the NFC East certainly won't be. Dallas will be playoff bound while the Rams won't be. For this week though, even without a fan in attendance to open their new stadium, the Rams will start out with the victory thanks to a late game-winning field goal. Los Angeles wins 32-29.
Monday, September 14th - Monday Night Football doubleheader
The injury bug devoured the Steelers last season, but with a healthy squad going into this year, Pittsburgh should be in the hunt for the playoffs once again. A new coaching staff and a new-ish quarterback room lead the way for a Giants organization in transition. The Giants should be battling Washington for third in the NFC East this season and they’ll enter that battle with an 0-1 record after this one. Pittsburgh wins 24-17.
Tennessee was the surprise team of January’s playoffs thanks to the dominance of Derrick Henry, the efficiency of Ryan Tannehill, and the stoutness of their defense, which has now been further upgraded with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney. Of course, they were ultimately overwhelmed by Kansas City in the AFC title game, but frankly, everyone was eventually overwhelmed by KC last season. Thankfully for Tennessee, Denver is as opposite of KC as it comes. Denver has arguably the worst quarterback situation in the NFL and are likely to have the most tickets for the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes going into next spring’s draft. This one will be all too easy for the Titans. Tennessee wins 26-6.
That’s how I see it, tell us how you see Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season unfolding. Leave your comments and insight below. Finally, Saints football is back! WHO DAT!