The New Orleans Saints are masters when it comes to regular-season dominance. They’ve won at least 11 games in three straight seasons — and seven times in the last 11 years. One thing they’ve struggled to do, however, is turn those victories into playoff success, advancing to the NFC Championship Game just once since their last Super Bowl run in 2009.

But few would argue, entering 2020, that the Saints are among this year’s top contenders for the Lombardi Trophy. They may not have smelled a Super Bowl win in more than a decade, but there are plenty of reasons to believe this could be the year they do.

As the new season fast approaches, here are four of them:

1. Drew Brees is bound for another MVP-caliber season

We’ve tried multiple times in the last half-decade or so to suggest Brees is finally entering a late-career drop-off. In 2014-2016, it was the uptick in interceptions. In 2019, it was the alleged decrease in arm strength, then the thumb injury. But guess what? At 41, he’s still one of the safest picks to contend for league MVP on an annual basis. And there’s reason to believe he’s got a “rebound” in him.

“Rebound” is in quotes because, frankly, the only thing Brees is rebounding from in 2020 is the injury that cost him five starts. When he was on the field, he was as good as ever. (There’s a reason the club finished 7-2 under his signal-calling.) Projected over 16 starts, Brees’ 2019 numbers would’ve looked something like 4,300 yards, 40 touchdowns and just six interceptions. That, friends, is MVP material. And you don’t get that by accident.

Rejuvenated with new techniques to “take 10 years off his arm,” Brees is primed for another incredible year on his way to a future Hall of Fame nomination. His 2019 absence shouldn’t have you that worried, either; he’s started at least 15 games in 15 of the last 16 years, and his quick-strike style of play keeps him out of harm’s way more than other QBs. Put simply, if he stays upright and produces as per usual, there’s little reason to believe his team won’t be squarely in the Super Bowl picture.

2. Brees’ supporting cast is as good as it’s ever been

Take a look at how the lineup around Brees during the Saints’ last Super Bowl season (2009) compares to 2020:

The differences obviously don’t have any implication for the 2020 Saints, especially relative to the evolution of the rest of the NFL teams vying for a Lombardi, but they help illustrate the point: New Orleans, as is currently constructed, boasts one heck of an offensive lineup. Between Kamara, Thomas, Cook, Armstead and Ramczyk, you’re talking about top-10 talents at five different premium skill positions, with the addition of rock-solid veteran starters like Sanders.

Ever since Brees took over as Sean Payton’s guy in New Orleans, the Saints have been an annual contender for NFL’s most productive offense. But while it’s become cliche to anticipate video-game stats from the black and gold, we can’t overlook the fact they’re just so well set up to succeed in 2020. They don’t play nearly as freewheeling of a game as more explosive teams like the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, but if you need guaranteed efficiency and a high-scoring attack, they will deliver. That’s a recipe for title contention in this age of football if there ever was one.

3. The revamped defense has top-five upside

This might be the most underrated factor when it comes to the Saints’ Super Bowl chances. We know that defenses don’t have to be perfect in today’s NFL to be championship-worthy, particularly if you’ve got a top-five offense to put points on the board, but New Orleans has a unit that should at least crack the top 10 and has the ability to rank among the league’s top five. In other words, they don’t just have an awesome cast of all-stars on offense. They’ve also got an incredibly balanced talent pool on “D.”

Start up front and work your way back: Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport make up one of the NFL’s best edge-rusher duos; Demario Davis forcefully and single-handedly holds down the linebacker corps into his 30s; Marshon Lattimore is still hitting his stride as an All-Pro-caliber cornerback; and old friend Malcolm Jenkins brings all kinds of on- and off-field leadership at the back end. At every level, this defense has proven production with room for growth after a year of finishing 11th and 13th in terms of yards and points allowed, respectively.

The other thing that gives them a leg up is continuity. While the unit is certainly “revamped,” with Jenkins plugged in opposite Marcus Williams, Davis’s LB counterparts shuffled and Janoris Jenkins permanently installed alongside Lattimore, the foundation of the “D” remains largely the same. During an offseason in which many teams were forced to implement new schemes and starters amid a pandemic, New Orleans will enter 2020 ready to hit the ground running.

4. The rest of the NFC isn’t necessarily daunting

One of the most immediate objections to projecting a Saints Super Bowl run might come within the team’s own division: But what about Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Fair question, but if it comes down to Bruce Arians and a completely reassembled group featuring Brady, LeSean McCoy and Rob Gronkowski — all of whom are learning a new system for the first time — or Sean Payton, Drew Brees and a Saints team that’s essentially run it back to the tune of 37 wins in the last three years, the safe money is on New Orleans taking the extra step, no?

Couple that with the fact the Saints are set to have the 24th-easiest schedule in the NFL, and you’ve got reason to believe another 13-win season really isn’t out of that question. Obviously Payton and Co. haven’t always gotten over the hump once they’ve reached the postseason, but it’s not as if the conference is overflowing with surefire powerhouses. The reigning NFC champion 49ers are due to regress. Ditto for the Packers, who won 13 in 2019. The Cowboys are adapting to a new regime. The Seahawks are still a touch too reliant on Russell Wilson. The Eagles have lost five of their last six to New Orleans. It certainly won’t be a cakewalk, but the path is there.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here