The New Orleans Saints recorded a 7-9 campaign for the third season on the bounce, once again failing to reach the post-season.
Sean Payton’s men have become synonymous with mediocrity, despite boasting one of the best quarterbacks in the league in the form of Drew Brees.
The 38-year-old put forward another excellent term, throwing 37 touchdown passes, to put up the second highest amount of points across the NFL.
However, the Saints’ defense continued to be porous and was the anchor that prevented the team from challenging for a place in the playoffs.
Payton will remain in charge of the NFC South outfit, although rumours about his future persist. Should the club continue to struggle and Brees begins to show signs of decline due to his advancing years, change could be on the horizon.
As a result there is a huge season ahead for Payton and his team in 2017. We’ll now take a look back at the last campaign to see what went wrong for the Saints and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the post-season.
The Saints began the campaign with a matchup against the Oakland Raiders at home. Both teams boasted formidable offenses and the game played out as expected with Derek Carr and Brees going score-for-score, with neither side capable of pulling away from each other.
New Orleans made their move in the fourth quarter as Brees connected with Travaris Cadet for his fourth touchdown of the contest. However, Carr would match his drive by bring Oakland within an extra-point of tying the match when he found Seth Roberts in the endzone.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio opted against kicking the extra-point, instead going for a two-point conversion. This allowed Carr to find Michael Crabtree to secure the win on the opening day.
The New York Giants were next on the schedule and one of the storylines to emerge from the campaign would be there shutdown defense. Ben McAdoo’s men put the clamps on Brees and company allowing their team to record a narrow win at MetLife Stadium.
The Saints’ offense returned to rhythm against their bitter rivals the Atlanta Falcons, but the power of Matt Ryan’s attack proved to be too much for New Orleans to handle, losing the contest 45-32 at the Superdome.
Payton’s men got their first win by capitalising on a meltdown by the San Diego Chargers in their clash on the road. Two fumbles from the home side allowed Michael Thomas and John Kuhn to find the endzone, dragging their outfit to a one-point victory.
The Saints almost endured a collapse of their own against the Carolina Panthers, allowing Ron Rivera’s men to rally from an 18-point deficit to tie the match in the fourth quarter. However, Will Lutz held his composure in the dying seconds to send a 58-yard field goal through the posts.
For all the progress the Saints made against the Chargers and Panthers, a defeat lay just around the corner as the Kansas City Chiefs outplayed them at Arrowhead Stadium to secure a comfortable win.
New Orleans proved that despite their issues they were capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the NFL and defeating them.
That is exactly what they did in their clash with the Seattle Seahawks, despite trailing 14-3 in the second quarter. Brees led a second-half comeback before Will Lutz made sure of the victory late in the game, with the defense for once pulling their weight.
Payton’s men brushed aside the San Francisco 49ers with ease before enduring one of the most painful losses of the season against the Denver Broncos. Brees led his side to a game-tying touchdown by connecting with Brandin Cooks, only to see the extra-point kicked blocked and Will Parks returned the ball for a two-point score to hand the visitors the win at the Superdome.
The loss appeared to knock their confidence as the Panthers dominated them in their next outing. Brees attempted to bring his team back once again, but his efforts were futile in the end.
The 38-year-old put on a clinic in their next match against the Los Angeles Rams as the club hammered their old defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, with wideout Willie Snead also throwing a touchdown pass in a 49-21 victory to notch their fifth win of the campaign.
However, back-to-back defeats to the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their playoffs hopes. Although they bounced back with successive wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the Buccaneers at home their term would end in disappointment with another loss to the Falcons and a 7-9 record.
The Saints need to commit a lot of resources to their defense to make a surge for the playoffs in the 2017 season. Their division demands a strong unit to keep the potent offenses of the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers at bay, while any side hoping to compete for the Vince Lombardi trophy needs at least a competent defense.
Payton’s men don’t need to make any further additions on offense thanks to the excellent rookie campaign of wideout Thomas, while Cooks and Snead were also impressive last term. Coby Fleener was a solid addition at tight end, although the Saints could strengthen their running back corps with either a draft selection or through free agency.
Cornerback is the club’s most pressing need even though Delvin Breaux should return to fitness. Sterling Moore and Kyle Wilson are both free agents and may leave, although the Saints should at least attempt to keep Moore on the roster.
Stephon Gilmore or Prince Amukamara would be a welcome addition in the secondary should they bolter their secondary, but Logan Ryan may also be appealing due to Payton’s familiarity with the player having practised with the Patriots.
New Orleans have lacked a consistent pass-rush outside of Cameron Jordan. Drafting a young player could be the best option as there is not a great deal of talent available in free agency. Tim Williams, Derek Barnett and Solomon Thomas could be available at number 11 – all of whom would be good fits for the Saints.
There has been speculation over the future of wideout Cooks – especially if the Saints receive a decent trade offer for the 23-year-old’s services. As a result, backing him at +900 to be on another team in the 2017 with BetOnline sportsbook would be a decent punt to take.
The Saints have the potential to rise out of nowhere to become a threat in the NFC – if they are able to sort out their defense.
The Falcons surprised everyone by winning the conference last term so there is no reason why Payton’s men cannot match their feat and win their second Vince Lombardi trophy. Backing New Orleans at +2000 to win the NFC could worthwhile punt with excellent value.
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