The NFC South was a joke last season. The Carolina Panther won the division and made it into the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. The Saints were expected to win the division, but they uncharacteristically failed at home. The Superdome was not kind to them.
The Saints are once again favored to finish near the top of the division, but it won’t be easy. They are without Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham who soured on the franchise after they failed to grant him wide receiver money when they franchise tagged him last season. Which receiver/running back will benefit from increased targets?
Here is the 2015 NFL team preview for the New Orleans Saints.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 7-9
Key Additions: RB C.J. Spiller, OG Mike McGlynn, CB Brandon Browner, C Max Unger, OLB Anthony Spencer, ILB Dannell Ellerbe, CB Kyle Wilson, RB Travaris Cadet, DT Kevin Williams, RB Tim Hightower & WR Josh Morgan
Key Losses: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Kenny Stills, OG Ben Grubbs, C Jonathan Goodwin, DT Tyrunn Walker, ILB Curtis Lofton, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Corey White, K Shayne Graham, ILB Moise Fokou, DT Brandon Deaderick, FS Marcus Ball, DT Brodrick Bunkely & WR Robert Meachem
2015 Draft Picks: OT Andrus Peat, ILB Stephone Anthony, OLB Hau’oli Kikaha, QB Garrett Grayson, CB P.J. Williams, OLB David Tull, DT Tyeler Davison, CB Damian Swann & RB Marcus Murphy
Non-Division Schedule: AFC South, NFC East & (Arizona/Detroit)
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Willie Snead – This isn’t because I’m a Ball State homer. Snead has been impressive in camp. So impressive that many believe he could out-seat Brandon Coleman and Nick Toon to become the Saints third wide receiver. He has great hands as I watched him catch balls with regularity in college. He went undrafted, but if you have great hands and can run routes, you will find your way to the NFL. I believe Snead found the perfect situation in New Orleans. An organization that turned late-round pick Marques Colston into a Pro Bowl receiver.
Offense – QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Marques Colston, WR Brandon Coleman, TE Benjamin Watson, LT Terron Armstead, LG Tim Lelito, C Max Under, RG Jahri Evans & RT Zach Strief
Defense – DE Akiem Hicks, DT John Jenkins, DT Kevin Williams, DE Cameron Jordan, OLB Dannell Ellerbe, MLB David Hawthorne, OLB Hau’oli Kikaha, CB Brandon Browner, CB Keenan Lewis, SS Kenny Vaccaro & FS Jarius Byrd
Team Analysis: New Orleans had a down season in 2014. They still had a shot at winning the division late in the year, but couldn’t pull it off. The NFC South is a bit flat across the board. It’s not like the teams are all horrible, it’s just that there isn’t a team that is a legit title contender. Every team has a glaring weakness, but New Orleans doesn’t have as many. I hate that Jimmy Graham is no longer on the team though. Drew Brees used him as a security blanket that he trusted. Maybe Brandin Cooks could turn into someone he trusts as much, but he isn’t as big of a target. I believe Brees will utilize his backfield more in the passing game with Graham no longer on the team. C.J. Spiller could have a nice PPR season for fantasy. The Saints could limp into the postseason, but I don’t think they will have a record better than .500. The NFC South division race is a difficult one to predict, since the winner will be around .500 and won’t win the division by more than a game.
2015 Wins Over/Under Line: 9 (Prediction: UNDER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 7-9 (1st (tied) in NFC South)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.