It was easy to forget about the New Orleans Saints last season. The franchise was nothing but a controversial former contender with a quarterback who wasn’t getting any younger and a head coach whose name will forever be synonymous with Bountygate.
In 2013-14, however, the Saints are right back atop the NFL money line.
How exactly does a club so mired in negativity completely reset the course of the organization and jump right back into the thick of playoff contention? Well, it’s not particularly challenging when the 35-year-old under center squeezes yet another superstar season out of his veteran body and the once-vaunted defense that made the Saints a great NFL franchise picks up exactly where it left off.
The result is a legitimate contender with 13-2 odds of winning Super Bowl XLVIII and a nine-point favorite heading into a Week 12 clash with a 2-8 Atlanta Falcons team that’s just trying to keep its head down and not make a scene in the NFC South.
Simply put, the Saints are back, with the year of bounty-related sanctions doing little to slow the organization down long-term. Sure, the penalties to the coaching staff, including a full-year ban for Sean Payton, snapped New Orleans’ playoff streak at three years, but the Saints are right back in position to deal damage this winter.
This Thursday, Drew Brees and the Saints will look to continue to showcase their abilities in front of a national audience, hungry to prove they’re just as much a threat to win the championship this season as any of the other household names. They’ll face their share of challenges in Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and the new generation of defensive contenders like the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, but until somebody can put a cap on their passing game, it’s hard to see them slowing down anytime soon.
The Falcons, of all teams, aren’t likely to be that team. In addition to one of the league’s worst ground defenses, they haven’t looked particularly sharp in the air, either. Brees may be a long way from catching Manning in the total passing touchdown race, but a big game could certainly pad his position in second.
There comes a time, however, where personal accolades are little consolation, and Brees in particular has had no shortage of them in the past. A somewhat surprising Super Bowl push in 2014 could make up for the fact that the Saints were effectively shelved by NFL executives in 2013.
Take a good look at the New Orleans Saints in prime time this Thursday. It’s time that the NFL betting community starts remembering just how competitive this franchise can be.