This guest post was made by the SeatCrunch team.
This offseason has not been a good one for the New Orleans Saints. Many believe that with Jonathon Vilma and Sean Payton gone for 2012 , the Saints will fall from being one of the league’s elites to one of its patsy teams.
But let’s be realistic. Although some key components of the team will be missing this year, the Saints are recent Super Bowl Champs, they have one of the most potent offenses in the league and they should still be considered the best team in their division.
Drew Brees is one of, if not the very best quarterback in the NFL right now. Last season he threw for 5,476 yards, and had a 46/14 TD/INT ratio, leaving him with a 110.6 QB rating.
Who is he throwing to? Guys like Marques Colston and Devery Henderson will line up at wide receiver, while the shifty Darren Sproles will line up in the backfield or in the slot.
Sproles had 710 yards receiving and 603 yards rushing last year for 9 total touchdowns, and was especially effective against the other teams in the NFC South.
Tight end Jimmy Graham had 99 Receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns, making him the second most productive tight end in the league last year behind Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots.
In 2011, the Saints ranked 30th in passing yards allowed, but this statistic is likely skewed by the number of games where other teams took to the air while trying to keep up with New Orleans’ high-powered offense.
The loss of Jonathon Vilma will hurt, but there are several viable backups that will be able to replace him, especially when you factor in the knee problems he encountered last season.
The Saints’ defense is not exactly elite, but they can stop the run when it counts and will always present a challenge for opposing offenses.
Though the Buccaneers and Panthers show some promise – especially Carolina’s Cam Newton – neither team will present a legitimate threat to the Saints.
The Falcons on the other hand have a real chance of winning the NFC South this year if they can figure out a way to stifle Drew Brees and Darren Sproles, but my guess is that they won’t.
Sure, they have experienced some setbacks, but with a player/leader like Drew Brees at Quarterback, a slew of offensive weapons, and a fan base that is absolutely wild for their team, the Saints are still the team to beat in the NFC South.