Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 NFL Preview: Saved by the Saints

-"You can stop the flexing, soldier. I've heard good things."-


Ah, training camp. When a young man's love turns to fantasy, and fans of every team -- okay, fine, not every team -- entertain visions of Lombardi Trophies and victory parades.

As a fan of the Saints, I'm irrationally optimistic, even though the New Orleans defense hasn't done nearly enough to improve on its woeful performance last year. But even if the Saints disappoint yet again, and Sean Payton does even more to shed the "genius" label he picked up in 2006, it's hard not to like the Saints for fantasy purposes. Here's why:

  • We have a real kicker now. No more of the special teams debacle that cost the Saints multiple games last year. Since taking over the kicking duties in Week 9, rookie Garrett Hartley went a perfect 13-for-13 on FGs and 28-for-28 on XPs, good for third among kickers over that span. The high-powered offense will give him plenty of opportunities, and his 10 games in domes will make his job easier than, say, Lawrence Tynes in the Meadowlands.

  • That one guy Drew Brees. Can Peyton Manning adjust to the new coach and offensive coordinator in Indy? Will Tom Brady go deeper into the season than the eight minutes he survived last year? Can Kurt Warner throw another 600 passes without his arm falling off? Those are all good questions that I'm sure everyone will talk about ad nauseum leading up to Labor Day, but the real question is, how stupid will you look if you pick another quarterback with Brees still on the board? As always, there's no such thing as a 100 percent sure thing, but this guy's pretty close.

  • Marques Colston will regress. It's not just for baseball rookies suffering from the infamous "sophomore jinx". I admit: I was one of the poor saps that picked Colston early, only to watch him go on the DL in Week 1, and then underperform for weeks on his return. But his second half was in line with his previous two years, and he posted his best-ever YPC (16.2), so there's plenty of reason to believe he'll return to his previous spot as Drew Brees' favorite target.

  • A sweet schedule. The bad news: New Orleans' 8-8 record was last in the NFC South last season. The good news: this year's team gets a last-place schedule as a result. That means games against the Rams and Lions. Add that to four games against the rebuilding Bucs and the offense-minded Falcons. Even their games against the AFC East are a good opportunity, playing at Buffalo in September, the weak secondary of the Jets, and the New England Retirees Patriots. Plus, they're not scheduled to play at Chicago in December for the fourth straight year. That'll be a nice change.
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