Preseason Power Rankings No. 6: New Orleans Saints

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The Saints are in an interesting position.

There might not be a team in the NFL as good as the thing they do than the Saints are at throwing the football.

The combination of Sean Payton and Drew Brees continue to be one of the best coach-quarterback pairings, and now that the contract unpleasantness with tight end* Jimmy Graham is over, their offensive weapons are in place, mostly intact from last year.

But where does that get them?

When the top teams in the NFC are playing power football, can the Saints push beyond big fantasy stats with finesse?

They benefit by being different from the teams that topped the conference last year (the Panthers likewise want to play physically), but this year will be a test to see if that difference is meaningful.

Brees is still at the top of his game, but that might not be enough any more.


Did we mention Drew Brees was good at throwing the ball?

He threw for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions last year.

And with Graham paid, they still have an impressive array of targets.

Marques Colston is still producing at a high level, and even with a change in the backfield (more on that in a moment), they’re going to be able to move the ball.

Payton is tremendous at the chess match of offense, and incorporating some new guys into the scheme will allow them to develop that capability.

Adding first-round speedster Brandin Cooks should more than make up for the departure of Lance Moore, especially with Kenny Stills developing into a more dependable target.


Last year, the Saints’ defense might have been better than their offense, or perhaps it was just by contrast to the year before.

Rob Ryan transformed a group that set a league record for yards allowed in 2012, and it’s not as if they had a gigantic personnel upgrade.

Ryan was patching together parts, and injuries didn’t help.

But Junior Galette emerged as a legitimate outside linebacker option, and defensive end Cameron Jordan had a breakout year with 12.5 sacks.

The offseason’s big acquisition, safety Jairus Byrd, ought to be able to make a big impact, paired alongside Kenny Vaccaro. That enthusiasm was dampened a bit when Byrd needed back surgery, knocking him out of most of the offseason work.

The only problem is, the Saints still might not have sufficient personnel on that side of the ball, so regression is a real possibility.

They finally pared away some of the old parts on defense (cutting Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer), which might have been necessary.

But other than bringing in last-legs cornerback Champ Bailey, there wasn’t the kind of influx of talent they might have needed.

They improved last year based largely on energy and emotion, and we’ll see how long that lasts in the face of a talent discrepancy.


The Saints traded a complementary running back, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a headline move.

But that back was Darren Sproles, who was such an integral part of their offense, catching 71 passes last year.

Replacing him will be a huge challenge, and they’re going to be relying on a deep group of backs.

Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will likely get most of the carries, but Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet will need to make a big step to pick up the slack from Sproles’ departure.

Cooks might be the biggest beneficiary of the change, as they want to take advantage of his 4.3 speed. While it’s not a like-for-like replacement, he does have the same kind of game-changing ability as Sproles.

Camp Battles.

The Saints offensive line was a work in progress last year, but rookie Terron Armstead settled into a spot where they’re comfortable with him at left tackle. They were also able to hang onto right tackle Zach Strief and guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans return.

That leaves a hole in the middle, after Brian de la Puente left in free agency for Chicago.

Tim Lelito will get the first crack, but they brought veteran Jonathan Goodwin back for cover, giving them a reasonable competition.

It would also help if a young cornerback would step up opposite Keenan Lewis. They brought in Bailey, but all parties are probably best served if he’s able to limit his snaps a bit. Second-rounder Stanley Jean-Baptiste gives them some new size at the position, which will enable them to match up better with the big wideouts in their division.


They’re going to be pretty good.

If the defense continues at last year’s pace, they can be very good.

But the Saints have problems local and national.

They play in perhaps the league’s deepest division, with the Falcons healthy and re-tooled and the Buccaneers on the upswing with Lovie Smith along with the defensively stout Panthers.

Then comes the matter of whether they can stand toe-to-toe with the Seahawks and 49ers to make a push for another title.

That makes the regular season of extreme importance. They’re a different team in their own building, so getting home field advantage might mean more to them than any team in the NFC.

If they can get it, the Saints could easily be a Super Bowl team.

71 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 6: New Orleans Saints

  1. In my mind the saints easily have a top 3 roster right now. I think Seattle has dropped a tick, but since they are the champs I would still put them 1. However all Seattle fans are not questioning the saints ability to play power football after watching the divisional playoff game last year. If Ingram does not fumble deep in saints territory, saints may win that game as that was seattle only TD. I get it, he did fumble and Seattle is great at causing turnovers but the point is the saints stood toe to toe in a power game with Seattle in Seattle and I don’t think most of the country realizes it. After armstead became left tackle the saints run game became legit. And the D was no fluke am while Byrd and bailey were only notable additions, victor butler returning from injury is another big addition. Barring injury saints are more of a threat to Seattle than SF. They just are.

  2. So after being ranked 4th in the league on defense last year with a patch work group that’s considered a weakness? In the playoffs they held a high flying Eagles offense to 256 total yards and the next week they gave up 277 to the Seahawks. And that’s a weakness? Really.

  3. I agree that the Saints are overall #6…. if they are playing at home, take them out of the Super Dome they’re more like #15 – #18… average at best. If the Saints don’t get home field advantage … whole different team, they depend on the dome, so for this they are a bit over ranked at #6

  4. Saints are my non-homer pick to win the Super Bowl.

    They should be above the Packers at least, their defense went from dead last to top 5, and it’s definitely better than Green Bay’s.

    Offensive weapons are equal, QB too (even though Rodgers will be the best the league in a forseeable future since he is the only in the elite 4 below 35 years old).

    If this team clinches homefiled advantage they will be hard to be stopped and I see them with better chances than the Seahawks (since we are going to fight inch-to-inch against the Niners).

    I hope the Broncos are not above the 49ers, losing in the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that you’re the second best.

  5. The incredibly weak Rams, #20 in PFT’s list, beat the Saints in week 15, 27-16. Now let’s consider this. In the final 7 weeks of the season, the Rams went 4-3 — with a backup QB — beating New Orleans (#6), Indy (#8), Chicago (#12), and Tampa Bay (#26), losing to Seattle (#1), San Francisco (probably #3), and Arizona (#10). That’s right — the Rams played 6 of the top 12 teams and went 4-3. Yet they’re ranked #20, and the Saints, whom they beat, are #6!

  6. How could you put a Varsity team (NFC playoff team) below any of the JV teams (AFC playoff teams)? The top AFC team from last year wouldn’t have made it out of the Divisional Round in the Varsity Division. The Saints played the Hawks tough in Seattle while the Broncos looked like some high school team wandered onto the field at a neutral site.

  7. From an impartial point of view, I disagree with the ” the league’s deepest division” statement. I think NO has at a minimum 4 wins in the division with 5 or 6 more likely. Tampa’s in transition with a 2nd yr QB and only 1 WR. No proven WR’s to speak of in Carolina, and Atlanta had major issues with O-line and their defense last year. Those teams have really big “if’s”, while NO’s offense is a constant. The NFC West is deeper in my humble opinion.

  8. How can the #4 defense be the team weakness even after they upgraded two starters from last years defense. Not saying you’re wrong with the team ranking just confused at how you arrived there.

  9. If ANYONE alive actually thinks the Pats are a better team than the Saints they were duped! I know AFC teams get overvalued in this PC world of false equality but come on… Pats would come in to argument around 8 if actually talking about team strength (and I put them 10th)

    the only AFC team in the top 5 should be Denver and the highest I could see them is 4…. after New Orleans

    top 3 teams w/o any question IMO
    then Denver

  10. Quite frankly top 6, or maybe even top 10, are “any given Sunday” material. Any of them can get on a steak and win the SB and beat any other top 6 team.

    I just want a great damn Season with all sorts of tension and craziness.

  11. Saints at #6? Okay. That feels about right considering the debatabilty of any preseason ranking.
    I think Gantt has done a pretty fare job profiling the team.

    I wouldn’t consider the “weakness” aspect to be found on the D side of the ball, though. What I’ll be watching, weakness-wise, is how the O-line does with the shift in the talent at LT and C. That line had some difficulty last season with their zone blocking scheme and the run game sputtered.

    I think DC Rob Ryan, who had to pull rabbits out of his hat last year because of injuries, will rally the current talent for an improved D–they were ranked around 4th overall last year.

    Go Saints!

  12. Good writeup about the Saints. Barring injuries with Coach Peyton at the helm they have a good a shot as anyone to win the Superbowl. We need to learn to win away games assuming the refs call a fair game for the visiting team, which rarely happens, from what I see! Our biggest challenge this year will be for our linebackers to stop our opponents passing attack on the short routes. We do OK against the run and put pretty good pressure on the quarterback. We will see how it will work out.

  13. Well since this ranking is nothing more than an opinion I wouldn’t get too worked up over it. Too bad the super bowl is not being held in the dirty city that should be under water. The Packers play very well down there.

  14. Dial up some of that officiating these guys have gotten over the years…especially the SB year and #6 is about right.

  15. I would rank them about 6…

    but they did have that whole off season debacle where the coach and the qb threw their tight end under the bus with his contract. Saints are a pretty good team but that kind of divide is suicide.

  16. One of the few teams that have both a top 5 offense and a top 5 defense and they are ranked #6? None of the teams ahead of them have both a top 5 offense and defense. Green Bay? Negative. Denver? Negative. SF? Unless Kap learns how to be an actual QB nope. Seattle? Great D, top 5 O? Not even close. Pats? Brady works wonders with what he has but D doesn’t come close to top 5.
    Plus the Saints improved on both sides. Byrd is way better than Malcolm Jenkins, Bailey even at 35 is still better than Patrick Robinson/Corey White, Victor Butler returns to improve LB corp, Akeim Hicks will be the breakout start this season on D. On O they replaced an older/costlier Lance Moore with a younger/faster/cheaper/better version of him with Kenny Stills. Sproles is gone but PT took over his role nicely last year and was our best all around back. Cooks will have his lumps early but expect the rookie to have a good year. Jimmy is back even though all the haters wanted him gone LOL! I could keep going but with all that said I’d say #3 or #4 at worst.

  17. “The Packers play very well down there.”

    Kinda depends on who they play down there, doesn’t it? The Saints hung 51 on the Pack the last time they played in the SuperDome.

  18. Saints will dominate the league this season. I love when writers talk about the saints being a different team away from the dome. FACT: since 2006, only one team in the league has more road wins than the saints…New England. Dumb to continue to beat that false drum. Look it up genius!

  19. Alright all the NFC fans need to take it easy. I understand that you have a very rough division, yes. But saying that the top team in the AFC (Denver) wouldn’t make it past the divisional round??? That’s just foolish. You could put Denver AND New England in the NFC and they would go past the divisional round. Just because Seattle has the God Squad on defense does not mean that every single team in the NFC has an unstoppable defense. If Seattle had a better offense, none of their games would have been close. The offense made it seem as though the whole NFC was so far ahead of the AFC. Even though any team that went to the Super Bowl from the AFC would have been annihilated, they wouldn’t of looked like idiots in the NFC.

  20. But I think there’s a high volatility factor with this team. They could go either way.

    As Archie said…on paper, this could be the best Saints team ever.

    But as countless Redskins teams (and more recently, the Eagles’ “Dream Team” era) showed us, acquiring a bunch of FA’s and being good “on paper,” doesn’t mean much if you can’t make it kinetic.

    There were times last year when the Saints looked uncharacteristically overmatched (v. Seattle on the road). They were also uncharacteristically shaky in games v. teams they should’ve beaten handily (v. the Rams near the end of the season, and the Eagles, in a game that was too close v. a team with a porous defense, virtually no playoff experience, and an overachieving QB).

    They lost Sproles, without whom, they would not have produced a game winning 2 minute drill to beat the Eagles by the skin of their teeth; he gave them great field position at the start of that drive.

    I don’t think anyone in their right mind can really be sold on Rob Ryan as a DC, given his overall track record, either.

    And how will Peyton’s decision to testify *against* his most important pass-catcher sit in the locker room?

    The rest of the AFC South presents a formidable challenge, too.

    So, while they look good on paper, and they really should produce, this could be the beginning of the end of an era of AFC South dominance by the Saints.

  21. Pats would probably not make playoffs in NFC… be honest… and Denver, last year, was probably not as good as an NFC non playoff team

    my top 10…. teams I think will be best, not necessarily best records (again, AFC inflation)

    Pats or Cincy

    so stop the AFC is on par nonsense.. it is simply not true or fair to say it

  22. I think this is about right for the Saints. The Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos all belong ahead of them. The Packers are tough to judge because Rodgers missed so much of last season, but I think the Saints and Packers are comparable. I probably would have had the Saints 4th-5th, ahead of New England and possibly Green Bay, but they’re pretty close to where they belong.

  23. The sAINTs WILL NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! Ryan has a long history of his defense s playing great that first year then regression sets in for good.
    Losing Sproles will prove to be huge. Remember where SD was ranked when the had him, the how the fared after he left? Same deal here. Byrd has chronic foot issues and that wonderful dome turf won’t help. The WR with 4.3 speed is a possible bust and the years away from anything even if he’s not. Brees has actually lost a good bit and teams will take the blueprint from the NFC West on how to defend the sAINTs. Disrupt Brees’ s timing and pressure up that weak middle and he’s a dead duck in the water. Graham can’t get off the line when defended properly! He’s catchless in big game and they paid him how much? I see 7-9 as a much stronger possibility than winning the division, and if they don’t win that average division, there won’t be a second team going anywhere. The entire NFC West is better than them, Chicago, Philly, Detroit will be surprisingly better, Green Bay is better, Washington will be better than them so it just takes one team in their division to catch fire. Carolina has been better than them for 2 years, as poorly as falcons played last year, they almost beat them twice! Tampa could be a huge surprise. The sAINTs remain a bully team that has become predictable, but will run up scores and stats against weaker teams and that is what keeps them relevant.

  24. That team is better then Green Bay. And, at least they’ve won a playoff game or two since winning their super bowl. And beating Joe Webb in the playoffs, doesn’t really count.

    Outside of aaron rodgers, green bay has the worst team in the league. I can’t wait to read all about their ‘strengths’ on defense. What a joke. The team needed to play against two of the worst defenses statisticly in the history of the nfl just to get to a tie and a one point victory without rodgers.

  25. Saints are really good and will be a dangerous playoff team. I think what got them the 6 ranking was not being all that competitive in Seattle. They lost there twice, first time getting destroyed. It sort of looked like they were good, but there was a clear separation between them and the very top of the league.

  26. Just a friendly reminder:

    New England played four NFC teams last season. They man-handled TB, beat Atlanta, beat NO, and then got hosed in a loss to Carolina. Admit it, even if only in your head, they got hosed.

    Denver also played four NFC teams. They beat NYG, beat Philadelphia, beat Dallas, and beat Washington. Might I add they outscored their opponents 189-112. Pretty big margin, eh?

    That’s a combined 7-1 record against the NFC. Yeah, I think the playoffs would be a realistic possibility.

  27. Do the people that think they are ranked too high even watch football? Are you that ignorant?

  28. The NFC is vastly superior to the inferior AFC.

    Guess why the draft went like this
    Rams from washington- NFC

    That’s 9 NFC teams to 7 AFC in the bottom half of the NFL. 5-5 in top 10. This inferior AFC thing is a myth. AFCS, & NFCE are neck & neck terrible, the rest of the NFL is parity! Just like the head to head of conferences was 30-34. Injuries to a key player can shift power anytime. Keep looking at paper thinking the NFC is superior they play the games for a reason,,

  29. Saints are about where they should be, definite SBowl contender. Especially considering it’s hard to repeat(Seattle), statistally hard to get back to the SBowl after losing(Denver) and a talented 49er team had a bad offseason.

    This NFC dominance factor is way overblown for two reasons. The SB blowout. Denver had a great yr and were actually favored in the game, just had a bad day against a great team. It’s happened in the SB many times. Second, the AFC does have some bad teams at the bottom. But overall the NFC was 34-30 against the AFC last yr. Denver and NE, in everybody’s top 5, went 7-1. Only loss was the controversial Gronk call @Carolina.

    As for Ariz, ST Lou and Wash being better than the Pats…’wicked’ funny.

  30. I am a Seahawks fan, but my wife went to highschool with Drew so I have watched just as many Saints games as Hawks games over the last 8 years. We played each other twice last year (to the detriment of my nocturnal life) and I was nervous both times. That divisional playoff game was one of the hardest-hitting game I have ever seen. I never thought those words would be strung together in reference to those two teams! I agree that the Saints are contenders.

  31. Sean Payton got players and is making changes specifically to fix the reason why they lost those 5 games last season. I expect that number to drop to 2 or less this year. If Seattle makes it to the playoffs, they will lose to New Orleans in the Superdome. The Saints have a better team now than when they won it all in 2009.

  32. The reality is that the ingredients are in place for either Saints, Seattle, Denver and SF to win Super Bowl this year. Probably less than 50% chance its not one of these 4 teams. But something just feels right about Saints this year and Brees will likely get 2nd lombardi in his career and I think this is the year. Top 3 offense and Top 5 defense, almost unbeatable at home, and much improved on road now that they showed very good power running play action ability in playoffs. And with Graham back at 100% (actually able to run full speed and jump and stretch field with foot injury healed), Morgan back to stretch D vertically, Stills emergence as legit WR, Colston still quite able to put up big numbers, Cooks playmakeing breakaway speed being plugged into this platform, OL much more stable and improved, it could be back to being one of the best offenses in NFL history this year. Ingram came on 2nd half last year, PT is just one of the most dependable and underrated RBs and can catch 70 out of backfield, Bill Parcells says Khiry Robinson reminds him a lot of Curtis Martin. The offense is stacked. Brees still in prime. Defense is just solid, with great pass rush and top 2 safety combo in NFL. One all pro type corner. week in 2nd corner spot but solid depth for nickel and dime. LB gets huge return of Victor Butler and Byrd is interception machine that reminds me of Saints D in super bowl ’09 year. But D is better this year than in ’09 on paper, but that D had so many turnovers and pick 6s that it was uncanny.

    This is a very very good team. Very hard for any team to win back to back super bowls and if Seattle drops off that could be Saints stepping up to the podium 🙂 This is just reality. Its not wishful thinking from a Saints fan. Injuries, bad luck, could blow up any team no matter how good, but this is 13+ win team this year, if good and bad bounces break even.

  33. Theres NOT 5 better teams than the Saints right now. So this ranking is flawed. How can the Saints Defense be a question when we had the #4 ranked Def and #2 passing Def? We upgraded with some of the Better players at their position and get back Victor Butler also. Logic just doesnt make sense in this forum.

  34. Now that we’ve moved to the top of the rankings, the crying from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has turned from whining that the Vikings are better than all the teams listed above them, to complaining that the Packers are ranked too high.

    Gotta love that delusional jealousy. Have fun with another last place finish.

  35. The division will come down to the Saints and Panthers again this season. The Bucs don’t have a chance, and the Falcons are garbage.

  36. SF, Hawks, Saints best three teams in the league. Packers, Broncos, Pats, round out top

  37. I don’t think anyone in their right mind can really be sold on Rob Ryan as a DC, given his overall track record, either.


    Are you high? He took a #32 ranked defense and turned it into a #4 ranked defense in ONE YEAR. Only time that’s been done in NFL history (go look it up).

    You gotta be high to make a statement like that. He’s done what NO OTHER DC coordinator has EVER DONE.

    Dream on….GEAUX RR!!

  38. I feel the rating is fine. Let’s just accept the fact that the top 6 are all within shot of winning it all. I’m obviously a GB fan and feel they are competitive with the top. Concerning how good they are…. I guess I’ll wait to see how well they perform at Seattle.

  39. New England played four NFC teams last season. They man-handled TB, beat Atlanta, beat NO, and then got hosed in a loss to Carolina. Admit it, even if only in your head, they got hosed.


    Actually, it was NO that got “hosed” when they played the Pats. Look at that hail mary play – tell me if you see the “obvious holding” to the left preventing one of our guys getting to Brady. I did, and so did a lot of other people. With that obvious holding play not being called…Saints win this game.

  40. Last year the Saints were still affected by the missing year of Payton and things were not in total sync like usual with offense. But Saints were still 5-0 and when they had Pats on the ropes on the road and then the hail mary happened with the obvious hold that was not called (no hold = sack or at least heavy pressure making that perfect long throw impossible).

    Also on road Panthers hit that fairly long pass that was almost hail mary like there in the last seconds, and game would have been Saints up by 20 if it was not hurricane like conditions, which was the Panthers key defense against satins – the sidewise rain and wind (Saints had just dominated Panthers few weeks earlier). It was a year of enormous bad breaks for Saints and they persevered through it all to still advance on road in playoffs and go toe to toe with Seattle on road but turnovers was the difference there.

  41. Sorry,but Saints should rank higher than GB. Oh, well, all the more reason to motivate the Saints to prove all the naysayers wrong!
    WHO DAT!

  42. The whole reason the saints are having training camp at the Greenbrerier is to get accustomed to the road. The first Two games of the season are on the road Atlanta then Cleveland all road games are winnable all our tough games are in the dome packers,49ers,Ravens,Cincinnati all at home. With our roster remember this statement Saints will have best record in NFC bet. Barring injuries

  43. brokebackbrees says:
    Jul 20, 2014 11:22 AM

    “With the new and improved bounty program I got them at number 1.”


    It’s really pitiful in a nation of 317 million, that you can read a comment and know who wrote it before you look up to see.

  44. Brokeback, it’s real easy. All you have to do is to name a single player that Goodell proved was injured by the BountyFarce program, or a Saints player he proved got money for injuring a player, or even an amount. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

    Favre? Wrong. Favre said he had no problem with how the Saints played in that playoff game. You got nothing. Warner? Wrong again. There’s nothing there. Not a single play. About 3000 defensive plays, all on video, and Goodell couldn’t come up with a single one. 50,000 pages of evidence and not a single verifiable incident of intentional injury. So either name a player or stop embarassing yourself.

  45. brokebackbrees says:Jul 20, 2014 11:22 AM

    With the new and improved bounty program I got them at number 1.

    & on pure football skills as a team, the Vikings aren’t even on the radar.

  46. Saints have a really good shot at beating the 9ers again this year as long as the same officiating crew is working the game.
    Ahmad Brooks hit on little Drew was as clean as they come! Sack fumble game over!

  47. Oh please. Kaepernick got the ball back and couldn’t do anything. Then, Osgood ran into Sproles on the punt return.

    That game was actually closer than it should’ve been. But good luck with paying Kaepernick $100 million.

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