Super Bowl Saints?

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Can the Saints repeat as Super Bowl champs?

Can the Saints repeat as Super Bowl champs?

Can the Saints repeat as Super Bowl champs?

YES

Tell owner Tom Benson to break out his fleur-de-lis umbrella and fire up the New Orleans jazz band, because the Saints will be marching to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.

And the return to Big D for this season’s big game will be a homecoming of sorts for coach Sean Payton, who served as the Cowboys’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach from 2003-05, as well as quarterback Drew Brees, who led Austin’s Westlake HS to a 16–0 record and Texas 5A state title at the old Texas Stadium as a senior in 1996.

The stage is set for Payton and Brees to lead the Saints on another Super Bowl run. Following a Week 10 bye, New Orleans hosts inconsistent Seattle, travels to down-and-out Dallas, goes to “Who Dat?” little brother Cincinnati and hosts upstart St. Louis. Those are four very winnable games for a team that currently sits at 6–3 overall with a 3–1 mark in the NFC South. If all goes well, the final three weeks of the season — at Baltimore, at Atlanta and Tampa Bay — will determine whether the Saints enter the postseason with a first-round bye or a wild card berth.

Led by Payton and Brees — who are slowly evolving into the NFC’s version of Belichick and Brady — this year’s team has fought through injuries to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, along with All-Pro safety Darren Sharper. The second-half return of all three playmakers should bring back the Saints’ Super Bowl swagger.

Expect another Bourbon Street bash that becomes an extended Mardi Gras party — with Payton calling the shots (onside kick to open the second half, anyone?), Brees leading the troops and aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams unleashing end Will Smith, tackle Sedrick Ellis, middle ’backer Jonathan Vilma and Sharper.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Nobody — again.

– Nathan Rush

NO

Ever since John Elway sailed into the sunset following his second straight Super Bowl win, we’ve had more Brett Favre “retirements” than repeat champions. In the last decade, only the 2005 New England Patriots have managed to pull a back-to-back. It’s more likely for a team to miss the playoffs the year after a Super Bowl win than it is to repeat. Throw in the fact that the Saints haven’t really played all that well this season, and the answer is simple: Enjoy the Vince Lombardi Trophy while you can, Saints fans — it ain’t going to be in your possession much longer.

The Saints have been able to camouflage their deficiencies for much of the season. But they’ve also revealed some clear weaknesses, starting with, of all places, the quarterback position. No player is more important to his team’s success than Drew Brees, and Brees has been a mere shadow of his 2009 self. In tossing 12 picks through nine games, Brees has already exceeded last year’s total. In the Saints’ three losses this year, Brees has thrown an alarming nine interceptions after throwing 11 all of last season. Now comes word that Brees may be battling a fracture and a torn meniscus in his knee, a possibly crippling blow to a team that lives and dies with its quarterback.

The Saints are still piling up yardage, but they’re not converting their opportunities. After leading the NFL in scoring in 2009, averaging 31.9 points per game, the Saints are scoring at a pedestrian 22.3 clip. Their rushing attack (93.7 ypg) is one of the NFL’s worst, and unless Brees starts clicking — an unknown given his output thus far and his questionable health — this offense is out of options.

Last season, the Saints rode homefield advantage in the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl. This time around, with a closing trio of games against Baltimore, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Saints will struggle merely to make the postseason.

Who dat say the Saints won’t repeat? Me, dat’s who.

– Rob Doster

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With an inconsistent 6–3 record entering their bye week, can the New Orleans Saints repeat as Super Bowl champions?