While there’s simply no way that a trip to the NFL’s final four could be considered a failure, the NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams was a stinging one for the New Orleans Saints. As a field goal favorite at home, the Saints had visions of a Super Bowl appearance dancing in their heads.
It wasn’t meant to be. Fingers have been pointed at the officials as the reason why, but there’s more to see here. The bottom line is this: the Saints held a 13-10 lead at the half. They extended the lead to 20-10 about midway through the third quarter.
The Rams mounted a comeback and tied the game at 23 apiece at the end of regulation. One 57-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal later, and it was the Rams who had their Super Bowl tickets punched. In fairness to New Orleans, the team was close to wrapping the game up in the fourth quarter.
A controversial pass interference call made that a moot point. The Rams were able to get the ball back and tie the game up in the closing seconds. That’s certainly a heartbreaker, but let’s not forget that New Orleans held a 10-point lead with a quarter-and-a-half left to play.
Questions abound as to how the Saints will respond. Last year was being viewed as an excellent shot for the team to land another Lombardi Trophy before Drew Brees gets too long in the tooth. Can they gain strength from last year’s disappointment, or will the devastating loss inspire a step back?
As the NFL betting sites see it, New Orleans is the second-favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this season, behind the Rams. On the division front, the Saints are favored by a wide margin to once again take down the NFC North.
The bottom line is that this should be a playoff team, barring something unforeseen. But can the Saints reach last year’s lofty 13 wins? Let’s take a look and find out. For starters, we’ll take a closer look at the 2018 campaign in New Orleans.
New Orleans Saints 2018 Season Recap
Record: 13-3 | Standings: 1-NFC South | Playoffs: Lost NFC Championship
The Saints opened up the year at home as big favorites over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A shootout erupted with both Brees and Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for over 400 yards for their respective teams. In the end, the Buccaneers pulled out a stunning 48-40 win.
It was a wake-up call for New Orleans, and they responded in big league fashion. The club would go on to win its next 10 games in a row. Seven of the victories over that span came by double digits, including the last five of the streak.
During that 10-game run, the Saints took down a number of the NFC’s better squads, including the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. The good times would come to an end with a memorable Thursday night road game versus the Dallas Cowboys.
The hosts were able to slow the Saints down and control the game, walking off the field with a 13-10 win. New Orleans would bounce back and return to its winning ways, winning its next three in a row. The club would fall in a meaningless Week 17 game at home to the Carolina Panthers to finish the year with a record of 13-3.
As the top seed in the NFC Playoffs, the Saints were able to watch Wild Card weekend with the rest of us. The divisional round would bring a home game with the Eagles, with the hosts advancing to the title tilt with a 20-14 win.
The team fell to the Rams the following week, bringing an abrupt end to a season in which the Saints were legitimate Super Bowl contenders. New Orleans finished up the year ranked third in the league for points per game, and in 14th place for fewest points allowed per contest.
New Orleans Saints Offseason Moves
Since this was a team that was just a win away from reaching the Super Bowl, there was no reason to break the band up. Sean Payton returns as head coach, with Pete Carmicheal Jr. and Dennis Allen also returning to lead the offense and defense.
The team parted ways with players such as RB Mark Ingram and DT Tyeler Davison. The Saints were active overall with signings that included RB Latavius Murray, DT Malcolm Brown, DL Mario Edwards, and TE Jared Cook.
The Saints would have to wait until round two for their first selection in the NFL Draft. The club would snag Texas A&M C Erik McCoy, a player who should compete for a starting gig on the line right away. Later round selections include S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out of Florida.
Brees showed no signs of slowing down last year, and the offense should be prolific once again. Alvin Kamara leads the way in the backfield, with Murray providing a complimentary punch. Cook joins Josh Hill atop the tight end depth chart.
Michael Thomas leads the way for the wideouts, with Ted Ginn and Keith Kirkwood currently penciled in behind him. Names to watch in camp include Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, and Cameron Meredith. The defense was solid last year, but the Saints took steps to shore it up even further in the offseason.
New Orleans Saints 2019 Schedule
|1||Mon. Sept.9||vs. Houston Texans||7:10 PM||ESPN|
|2||Sun. Sept.15||at Los Angeles Rams||4:25 PM||FOX|
|3||Sun. Sept.22||at Seattle Seahawks||4:25 PM||CBS|
|4||Sun. Sept.29||vs. Dallas Cowboys||8:20 PM||NBC|
|5||Sun. Oct.6||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1:00 PM||FOX|
|6||Sun. Oct.13||at Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM||CBS|
|7||Sun. Oct.20||at Chicago Bears||4:25 PM||FOX|
|8||Sun. Oct.27||vs. Arizona Cardinals||1:00 PM||CBS|
|10||Sun. Nov.10||vs. Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM||FOX|
|11||Sun. Nov.17||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1:00 PM||FOX|
|12||Sun. Nov.24||vs. Carolina Panthers||1:00 PM||FOX|
|13||Thu. Nov.28||at Atlanta Falcons||8:20 PM||NBC|
|14||Sun. Dec.8||vs. San Francisco 49ers||1:00 PM||FOX|
|15||Mon. Dec.16||vs. Indianapolis Colts||8:15 PM||ESPN|
|16||Sun. Dec.22||at Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM||FOX|
|17||Sun. Dec.29||at Carolina Panthers||1:00 PM||FOX|
New Orleans opens up the year with a Monday night affair at home versus the Texans. A pair of tough road games follows with trips to the Rams and Seahawks in successive weeks. The final week of September isn’t any easier as the Cowboys will be coming to town.
The month of October doesn’t look as challenging, but there could be a land mine or two before the team gets to the Week 9 bye. Right out of the break, it will be four straight games with divisional foes. Over the final month of the season, the Saints will face four squads with playoff ambitions of their own.
It’s a tough schedule overall, but the roughest part looks like that brutal three-game stretch in September. If the Saints can get through that in good shape, the team could make a lot of noise for the rest of the year.
New Orleans Saints 2019 Outlook
While the Saints are favored to win the division, the other three NFC South squads aren’t going to roll over. However, there is a talent gap between New Orleans and the Falcons, Panthers, and Buccaneers. The Saints should be able to go 4-2 over these six games, and five wins isn’t out of the question.
As a playoff team from last year, the Saints face a really tough set of games for the rest of the NFC schedule. They’ll be on the road for the Rams, Seahawks, and Bears. At home, they’ll welcome the Cowboys, Cardinals, and 49ers. New Orleans is talented enough to win four of these tilts, but 3-3 wouldn’t be stunning due to the overall level of competition.
For interconference play, the Saints will be matched up with the AFC South. They’re home for games with the Texans and Colts, and on the road for contests with the Jaguars and Titans. Three wins is definitely possible, while at least 2-2 should be a given for this portion of the schedule.
New Orleans Saints 2019 Win Total Odds and Pick
The Saints won 13 games last year, but oddsmakers have lowered the bar this time around.
Total Regular Season Wins:
Betting odds provided by: MyBookie.ag
New Orleans is one of the top teams in the NFC, and they have the extra motivation of coming oh-so-close to the Super Bowl last season. Barring an unexpected slowdown or the defense not playing up to capabilities, this is at least a playoff team.
A first-round bye is another matter. It took 13 wins for the Saints to turn that trick last time around. We’re not sure they get to that level in 2019. However, they can certainly get to 11 victories. That places us on the Over for New Orleans in 2019.