Saints Preview Capsule
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-6)
New faces: LB Demario Davis, S Kurt Coleman, CB Patrick Robinson, WR Cameron Meredith, QB Teddy Bridgewater, OL Jermon Bushrod, TE Ben Watson, DE Marcus Davenport, WR Tre’Quan Smith.
Key losses: S Kenny Vaccaro, TE Coby Fleener, OL Senio Kelemete, WR Willie Snead, RT Zach Strief.
Strengths: QB Drew Brees is 39 but has yet to show signs of decline. The Saints traded with the Jets for Teddy Bridgewater as a backup. Brees also is aided by strong offensive line and strong running game to punish overly aggressive pass rushers. WR Michael Thomas is coming off 1,200-yard season in only second year as pro. And receiver corps appears bolstered by rookie Smith, third-rounder.
Weaknesses: Not many, but pass rush could be one if All-Pro DE Cameron Jordan doesn’t get more help. DE Alex Okafor is trying to come back effectively from torn Achilles tendon. DE Trey Hendrickson has demonstrated potential but remains unproven entering second NFL season. 2018 first-round draft choice Davenport is raw and has been limited by groin pull during camp. Saints interior defensive line starters are third-year pros Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata, who’ve been reliable but with room to improve.
Fantasy Players To Watch: RB Alvin Kamara. His versatility is what helped him become 2017 Offensive Rookie of Year. Not only was Kamara Saints’ second-leading rusher with 728 yards and eight TDs, but also second-leading receiver with 81 catches for 826 yards and five TDs. Also had 106-yard kickoff return TD, and his 14 total TDs ranked first on Saints, who ranked second offensively in entire NFL.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 16-1. Over/Under wins 9 1/2.
Expectations: Barring injuries at key positions, or unanticipated sophomore slumps by Kamara and CB Marshon Lattimore (reigning Defensive Rookie of Year), Saints are primed to repeat as NFC South champs. Nearly all key players return to team that not only won 11 regular-season games in 2017, but was within one play of advancing to NFC title game — 61-yard Minnesota TD as time expired. Nearly all key players return, and if free-agent additions and top draft picks pan out, New Orleans could vie for second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.