Now that (almost all of the) big free agents have found a new team and the draft is over NFL teams are pretty much set and players are going back to the huddle in OTAs and minicamps. It’s time to take a look at Saints’ future opponents to see if/how they’ve been able to improve from last year.
Week 1 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Is there a better way to start a season for the Saints? Probably “Browns @ Saints” is your answer. Fair enough. But think about this: we have a chance to begin the new season with a win against our archenemies! Drew Brees and his teammates are hungry and that’s what they want: a challenge to step up to. And that’s what we need after disappointing 2012 campaign. The Falcons were a good football team last season and they will be good next year. I just don’t think they will be 13-3 good. They continued to get better in the past few years, especially on offense, and that process went on during the 2013 offseason. They added some big names in free agency (Osi Umenyora, Steven Jackson) and addressed other needs via the draft: Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford were taken in the first two rounds after the departure of Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson.
That being said, I believe that the Saints know how to beat the “Dirty Birds”. In the Brees-Payton era the Saints hold a 11-3 record against the Falcons: that’s pretty darn good. Last year in particular, even with a bad (I mean, BAD) defense, our guys put an end to the undefeated season of the Falcons in week 10 and had a chance to win the week 13 match-up too, even after the five picks tossed by Brees (boy, was that tough to watch!).
Why the Saints can win this game: Brees wants to score points. A lot. And their defense hasn’t been able to consistently contain him throughout the years; they’re good but not elite, especially after losing both Grimes and Robinson.
Why the Saints can lose this game: will the new defense be ready to stop Matt Ryan&co.? It sounds somehow odd, but the Saints might be outscored in this contest.
Week 2 @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After matching up against the Falcons in the first game of the 2013 season the Saints will be facing another divisional foe the following week. During the offseason the Buccaneers made some move to fix their struggling pass defense: they signed Dashon Goldson from the 49ers, Darelle Revis from the Jets and selected former Mississippi State cornerback Jonathan Banks with their second round pick (remember, they traded their first round pick to get Revis). That’s how you build a secondary.
On the other side of the ball the question is still the same: is Josh Freeman your franchise quarterback? The front office has been building around him in the past few years and now he’s got the tools he needs to be very good: Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams on the outside are excellent pass-catchers and Doug Martin is helping him a lot sustaining a successful running game. If Tampa Bay’s answer to the previous question is “no” they might have a Plan B with Mike Glennon under center but, as of now, Freeman is still QB1.
Why the Saints can win this game: they haven’t changed much on offense and last year the Saints had been able to contain the Bucs, allowing 28 points in two games.
Why the Saints can lose this game: the boost of the secondary is scary for our pass-committed offense; if Revis stays healthy and Barron puts up another solid season that group of DBs might give Drew Brees a hard time.