Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. The 2017 season saw the Saints lose dramatically in the NFC Divisional round. The 2018 Saints came back strong and finished the regular season with a 13-3 record (easily going over their 9.5 win total) as well as home-field for the playoffs. Let’s not forget they had a 9 game ATS win streak during the season for Saints backers and finished a profitable 10-6, but everyone will remember how their season ended in the NFC Championship game and based on the trend of how their season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 2019 Saints make the Super Bowl, only to lose on a last second “hook and ladder” play.
While that very specific outcome may be a long shot, the Saints are setting their goals high this season, and their win total and futures odds reflect that as they are tied with the 2nd highest win total of 10.5 games and they are the favorites to win the NFC South. But while the 2018 Saints team remained mostly intact from the previous season, the 2019 Saints will see a couple of new faces in key roles this season that could cause a hiccup in reaching 11 or more wins and the NFC South Title for a 3rd straight season.
Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Odds to Win the NFC: +550
Odds to Win the NFC South: -188 (Bookmaker)
Season Win Total: 10.5 (+110 over/ -130 under)
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|2||@ LA Rams||3||0.41|
|11||@ Tampa Bay||-4||0.66|
|13||@ Atlanta (TNF)||-2.5||0.55|
|17||@ Carolina||-5.5 (est)||0.69|
Total Expected Wins: 10.89
With Mark Ingram setting his sights on testing the market in free agency and eventually signing with the Ravens, the Saints brought in Latavius Murray to help lighten what will likely be a substantial workload increase for stud running back Alvin Kamara. But the big news came when three-time pro bowl center and one of the Saints’ captains, Max Unger decided to retire. Unger was a key figure in the locker room as well as a cornerstone on a talented offensive line. Nick Easton signed with the team and will be competing for the new opening on the O-Line. To boost the potent offense, the Saints did sign TE Jared Cook as Benjamin Watson left and his presence should bring an added threat.
The defense loses defensive end Alex Okafor and free safety Kurt Coleman. Coleman only spent a year with the team and failed to make a significant impact. Okafor, on the other hand, was a starter and was on the field for nearly 65% of the defensive plays. Last year’s top pick for the Saints, Marcus Davenport, looks to replace Okafor in the starting role, but to replace the depth, the Saints signed a couple of defensive tackles. Maclom Brown from the Patriots and Mario Edwards from the Giants. Brown will be a good addition to what could be a stout front 4 if the unit remains healthy.
The Saints didn’t have much to work with due to some aggressive moves in previous drafts, and with their highest pick in the 2nd round, they made the most of what they had. They further addressed the loss of Max Unger by drafting Erik McCoy, the center from Texas A&M, with their top pick. He is expected to compete for a starting role immediately and may also provide depth with the ability to slide to guard.
Saints added some low risk picks with a couple of speedy safeties for added depth in the secondary, including the free safety from Florida, Chauncy Gardner-Johnson. The last thing to note from their draft was picking Alize Mack late in the draft, the TE from Notre Dame, because what Saint’s draft is complete without one skill position player.
Consistency and efficiency are two words that come to mind as the 2018 Saints finished 4th in offensive defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). How consistent and efficient are they year to year you ask? The Saints have finished in the top 10 in offensive DVOA every year going back to the 2011 season. There are superstars all over the field for the Saints. Drew Brees may be getting older, but he just completed 74.4% of his passes last year, which was the best in the league and a career high. Alvin Kamara had 5.8 yards per touch, tied for 3rd best among backs with at least 200 touches. Michael Thomas led the league with 141 receptions. A healthy Cameron Meredith plus adding Jared Cook at TE and Latavious Murray to the backfield rotation should keep this offense rolling.
Now for the negatives notes for the offense. New acquisitions McCoy and Easton will compete for the open center position, but I would expect a little bit of regression from the line that allowed the 2nd fewest sacks last season. The loss on Ingram likely means a larger workload for Kamara and potentially Brees. Ingram and Kamara were one of the best tandems in the league, and their success limited the usage of Bree’s aging but accurate arm. It will be something to keep an eye on how much the Saints use Kamara or rely on the passing game for this season.
The 2018 Saints defense regressed in the secondary but improved drastically in the trenches. The Saints stopped the ground game and only allowed 3.6 yards per rush, good for 2nd best in the league and had the 5th most sacks in the league. The young secondary hit some major regression as they allowed the 27th best quarterback rating and 28th best yard per attempt. Their overall defensive DVOA only dropped from 10th in 2017 to 11th in 2018, all while facing the 8th toughest schedule of offenses. So what lies in store for 2019?
The optimistic outlook is that the pressure up front remains the same and the secondary rebounds from 2018 to find their 2017 form and the result would be a top 5 defense. Good news for that possibility is that last year mid-season acquisition of Eli Apple provided a spark for the secondary, and Apple proved why he was a first-round pick. If that is the case, then this could be a lethal team all around. The more likely scenario is that the run defense regresses some and the pass defense improves to be mediocre, still resulting in an above average defense.
Notes & Nuggets
Considering they have a first-place schedule again, it doesn’t seem too bad. No foreign travel, but they have a few back-to-back road games, including a back-to-back trip to the west coast in weeks 2 and 3. They will likely close as favorites in 13 or more games this year. One thing to note is that last season, the Saints faced the 2nd easiest schedule of opposing defenses in 2018, something unlikely to repeat for 2019.
Stay away, but a pick is needed so here we go. I don’t love it, but I’m gonna lean with the over at plus money. Just about everything has to go right for a team to get to 11 or more wins in a season, but there are weapons and experience all around this team and they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder again to after how 2018 ended. The expected win total is 10.89 giving some value to the over as well.