Drew Brees kept the Who Dat Nation and much of the rest of the nation in suspense early this year as he pondered retirement. After a long wait, he decided to return. He has served as the undisputed leader and primary force driving the success for the New Orleans Saints. The record-setting quarterback seeks one last accomplishment, a second Super Bowl championship, before heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, the Saints proved last season that they would not collapse if Brees missed multiple games. After Brees sustained an injured thumb in Week 2, the rest of the team boosted their contributions. The punt return squad and the defense both scored a touchdown to spark a win the following week at Seattle. The defense held Dallas to 10 points when the offense could only score four field goals. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed four touchdown passes against the Buccaneers. The defense limited the Jaguars to only two field goals. Latavius Murray ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns at Chicago. And the Saints return the core of that diversified and talented roster.
Brees still has some powerful weapons at his disposal. Alvin Kamara missed two games but led the team in rushing yards (818) and rushing touchdowns (six) while finishing third in receiving yards (567). Murray was an overqualified backup with 658 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Michael Thomas hauled in 149 passes for 1,725 yards (most in the NFL in both categories) and nine touchdowns (tied for fourth). Multi-faceted wonder Taysom Hill even completed four of seven passes, rushed 31 times for 206 yards and a touchdown, and caught 21 passes for 259 yards and seven touchdowns. If the Saints can find another wideout who can draw some attention away from Thomas, the offense could become unstoppable.
New Orleans' defense was the unsung hero of last season's 13-3 record and divisional title. The group allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards (91.3 ypg), compiled the third-most sacks (51), and forced 23 turnovers (tied for 10th).
The most valuable components of the Saints' defense are back for this season. Cameron Jordan, the leader of the defensive line, recorded 15 tackles for a loss, tied for ninth-most in the NFL. Demario Davis led the team with 111 tackles, while Marcus Williams had the most interceptions (four). Six projected first-team defenders also started at least 13 games last season.
With so much returning talent, the Saints look primed for a record fourth-straight NFC South title. Athlon Sports asked several experts to share their predictions for just how New Orleans' season will play out and what the team's record will be when all is said and done.
New Orleans Saints Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
John La Fleur (@FBConnoisseur)
The interrupted offseason and cancellation of preseason games will not disrupt the Saints' preparation for this season as much as others. The roster is loaded with numerous veterans who have played together for years. The team has won the NFC South in the last three seasons, and they have compiled the most wins of any franchise in the league in that span. However, the NFC championship and trip to the Super Bowl have eluded them due to inexplicable and heartbreaking losses in the playoffs.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Tom Brady has moved into the NFC South but this division is still Drew Brees' to lose. He may be losing some zip on his fastball, but Brees is the most accurate passer in NFL history (and most prolific by several standards), and what's more important, he has a deep and talented team around him. The defense will play a pivotal role as to how far this Saints team will go and while there may be some stumbles in the regular season, especially on the road, Brees and company will be judged by how they fare in the playoffs.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Drew Brees may not be throwing for more than 300 yards per game anymore, but he's making up for that with record-breaking efficiency. He's the only quarterback to complete 72 percent of his passes in a season, and he's done it each of the last three campaigns. Adding Emmanuel Sanders, the team's best No. 2 wideout since Brandin Cooks in 2016, and another top draft pick on the line will only make the offense more dangerous. With no major departures from this team's core, it's hard to bet against them in the regular season. The only question is whether they'll win 11, 12, 13 games, or more. Just as the Patriots have done, the Saints have also bulked up their defense, which should pay dividends if and when Brees eventually declines. They've got stars at each level and are one of the most complete teams this season.