Although every team is 0-0 and history says half of the teams that made it to the postseason in 2012 are susceptible to being left out of this year’s playoff field, it’s hard to ignore what teams did last year when trying to determine what they’ll do this year.
For the Saints, who missed the playoffs in 2012 and had a defense of historically bad proportions, it’s easy to assume that they won’t be much better this year. But that would be a mistake.
The Saints had plenty of reasons to perform poorly last year, from the full-season suspension of coach Sean Payton to the six-game suspension of interim coach Joe Vitt to the Drew Brees contract holdout that kept him out of the entire offseason program to the inability of first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to make much of an impact in light of the many distractions and overrated personnel.
This year, the Saints still have plenty of weapons on offense, and their defense can’t be any worse than it was in 2012. It’s amazing that they still won seven games (including a victory over the Falcons), despite the multi-layered mess.
This year, there’s normalcy in the offseason for the first time since 2009. Three years ago, the Saints were dealing with the afterglow of a Super Bowl win, and the complacency, fatigue, and rubber-chicken dinners that go along with it. In 2011, the lockout turned everything upside down, for the Saints and every other team. Then came 2012, the strangest offseason that arguably any NFL team has ever had to endure.”
We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” quarterback Drew Brees said recently, regarding the normalcy that has descended on the organization. “Just getting us back in this locker room in mid-April and just focusing on getting better in the weight room and just being around the guys. Getting back to football, and that’s what we do.”
But things still aren’t truly normal. They’re better than normal because, at a time when everyone has written off the Saints, the team has gotten a kick in the butt from the return of Payton and the arrival of Rob Ryan.
So don’t write off the Saints when the time comes to decide which teams will thrive in 2013.