The New Orleans Saints are just as talented as the Atlanta Falcons as we look ahead to the 2013 NFL season and the battle for the NFC South crown.
Atlanta is one of the most talented teams in the NFL and only continues to improve. That said, the Saints can say the same thing with a revamped defense under Rob Ryan and with head coach Sean Payton back in the fold.
We bring this up because John Clayton of ESPN recently answered a question about the NFC South by saying the Falcons are still the team to beat:
“I’ve so far voted for the idea that the return of Payton and the presence of Drew Brees should put the Saints back into playoff contention. I don’t think they will be as dangerous as the 2009 team. I think the change in defense to the 3-4 will take some time but should work out. Nevertheless, I still believe the Atlanta Falcons have the best chance of winning the division. That puts the Saints in the top 12. The receiving corps isn’t as deep as it was on the 2009 team. The offensive line is very good but not to the level of the ’09 team. I respect the Saints in their attempt to come back after a tough season. Last year, I compared the Saints to Ohio State when it lost its head coach and went on probation. Those days are behind the Saints, and they can bounce back.”
Last season when the Saints had the worst statistical defense in NFL history and was without Payton, the team still managed to defeat the Falcons in Week 10 to the tune of 31-27.
In other words, each game between the two teams is once more going to come down to whether Matt Ryan or Drew Brees can score the most points.
While the Falcons have done a nice job of improving this offseason, the Saints get their head coach back and presumably improve on defense as Rob Ryan makes New Orleans switch to a 3-4. As Clayton points out, the offensive line is just fine because whoever takes over the left tackle spot will still be protected by Brees’ ultra-fast release. The receiving core is about the same as 2009 when you take into account the combo of Joe Morgan and the rookie Kenny Stills.
It’s unfair to say the Falcons are the best team in the NFC South. Right now it the Saints and Falcons are on the same level.