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Saints: Five brave predictions for 2017

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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Saints will win the NFC South.

The Saints have been at the bottom of the barrel for too long. The Falcons just had their shot at the chip, and fell apart magnificently. Having lost Kyle Shanahan and the expected end to their injury-free glory days, they won’t be the same team in 2017. The Panthers lost the chip before them, and have since entered a rebuilding mode. The Bucs think it’s their turn. But it’s not.

The Saints were close in enough games last year that they could have — should have, really — made the playoffs. And that’s with a rash of injuries to all groups in their defense. Yes, season ending injuries to any of Drew Brees, Cam Jordan and Michael Thomas could derail this team. But the Saints are better equipped to handle injuries to any other player or position-group than they’ve ever been.

And when you break down the roster changes from 2016 to 2017, I’d argue you can’t find a single instance of lost talent outside of wide receiver. And the Saints’ additions at running back and OL will more than offset that loss. Jairus Byrd was a bust, and Marcus Williams and an older Vonn Bell will more than compensate. Linebacker and cornerback are a world apart from 2016. And the defensive line, while still flush with questions, has much more potential than it ever did in 2016.

There’s every reason to believe the Saints can win 11 or 12 games this year. And if they do, they’ll take the division. The Bucs and the Falcons are their biggest competitiors. But the losing seasons are over. It’s time to reclaim the throne.

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