The New Orleans Saints went into the 2014 season with the expectation of winning the NFC South and contending for a Super Bowl, as they were coming off a promising 11-5 campaign in 2013. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. New Orleans was a major disappointment at 7-9, though it was nearly enough to win the division, as the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with a record of just 7-8-1.

One of the troubling things for Saints fans last year, was the team’s troubling 3-5 record at home. New Orleans had just gone a perfect 8-0 at home in 2013 and were 40-11 over the previous 7 years combined. Getting back the edge inside the Superdome will be crucial to the Saints attempts at rebounding and getting back to the playoffs.

Instead of hoping that things would get better with the players that made up last year’s roster, New Orleans made a number of big moves in the offseason, most notably trading away one of the best tight ends in the game in Jimmy Graham for center Max Unger and a 1st round pick.

Last Season
NFC South
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Andrus Peat (OT), Stephone Anthony (ILB), Hau’oli Kikaha (OLB), Garrett Grayson (QB), P.J. Williams (CB), Davis Tull (OLB), Tyeler Davison (DT), Damian Swann (CB), Marcus Murphy (RB)
Max Unger (C), Dannell Ellerbe (ILB), Brandon Browner (CB), Anthony Spencer (DE), C.J. Spiller (RB), Kyle Wilson (CB)
Jimmy Graham (TE), Ben Grubbs (OG), Kenny Stills (WR), Curtis Lofton (ILB), Patrick Robinson (CB), Jonathan Goodwin (C), Robert Meachem (WR), Pierre Thomas (RB), Brandon Deaderick (DE), Luke McCown (QB), Tyrunn Walker (NT), Corey White (CB)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 @ Cardinals +3 0.41
2 Buccaneers -6.5 0.72
3 @ Panthers +3 0.41
4 Cowboys PK 0.50
5 @ Eagles +4 0.34
6 Falcons -3.5 0.64
7 @ Colts +5 0.32
8 Giants -2 0.53
9 Titans -7 0.75
10 @ Redskins PK 0.50
11 BYE
12 @ Texans +2 0.47
13 Panthers -2 0.53
14 @ Buccaneers -2.5 0.55
15 Lions PK 0.50
16 Jaguars -8 0.79
17 @ Falcons +1 0.51
Estimated Wins: 8.47
Roster Breakdown

The offense wasn’t to blame for last year’s failures. New Orleans led the league in total offense (411.4 ypg) and were 9th in scoring (25.1 ppg). They had the 3rd ranked passing attack (297.8 ypg) and were tops in the NFL in 3rd down conversion rate (48.3%).

Not a big surprise to see the Saints offense put up big numbers, it’s something head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have done on a consistent basis. The big question is how much longer will the two be able to keep it going. Brees turned 36 in January and is starting to show signs of decline. He still likely has a couple solid years left in the tank, but will need better protection than what he got last year, if he doesn’t want to spend his final seasons on the sideline.

I believe it’s why the Saints were willing to part ways with a special talent like Graham to bring in one of the best centers in the league in Max Unger, who is a major upgrade over last year’s starter Jonathan Goodwin. They did trade away former Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs, but believe they adequately replaced him with their 1st round pick of Stanford’s Andrus Peat. Peat will eventually start on the outside at tackle, but with Terron Armstead and Zach Strief still around, he figures to start out inside alongside Unger and veteran guard Jahri Evans.

Not only did New Orleans part ways with Graham, they traded away wide out Kenny Stills, who had a team-high 931 receiving yards on 63 receptions. That shows just how confident they are in the ability of 2014 rookie wide out Brandin Cooks to emerge as the No. 1 option. Cooks had 53 catches and 550 yards in 10 games before a thumb injury cost him the final 6. Cooks will be joined by veteran Marques Colston and a potential breakout candidate in tight end Josh Hill as the primary targets for Brees in 2015.

One of the biggest moves this offseason that the Saints made was bringing in running back C.J. Spiller, who was never used right in his time with the Buffalo Bills. Spiller will get some carries out of the backfield, but will primarily be used like Darren Sproles, who Brees desperately missed last year.

Payton showed a lot of trust in keeping defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the Saints finished last year ranked 31st in total defense (384.0 ypg) and 28th in scoring defense (26.5 ppg), though he did bring in Dennis Allen to aid Ryan as the new defensive assistant. Ryan and Allen will have plenty of new faces to work with on this side of the ball and their success will go a long way in determining how far this team goes in 2015.

No changes were made up front on the defensive line, where 3-4 defensive ends Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan return alongside nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley. The only new addition in the trenches is 5th round pick Tyler Davidson, though he doesn’t expect to play a big role.

The biggest changes will come at linebacker. New Orleans parted ways with inside linebacker Curtis Lofton and were recently forced to part ways with outside linebacker Junior Galette, due to continuous off the field problems. Luckily the team added in several players to this unit, including a pair of talented rookies in 1st round pick Stephone Anthony out of Clemson and 2nd round pick Hau’oli Kikaha out of Washington. Kikaha will likely be forced into a starting role on the outside with Galette’s departure, while Anthony will battle with holdover David Hawthorne and newcomer Dannell Ellerbe inside. Veteran free agent pickup Anthony Spencer is projected to start at the other outside spot.

The secondary was a major disappointment last year. The Saints though they had sured up their defensive backfield with the addition of free safety Jairus Byrd, but he played in just 4 games. That forced 2013 1st round pick Kenny Vaccaro out of position and he struggled big time. New Orleans also had a glaring hole at corner opposite of Keenan Lewis. The believe they addressed that need by signing free agent Brandon Browner and using a 3rd round pick on Florida State corner P.J. Williams.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl L
18 to 1
43 to 1
Odds Courtesty of 5Dimes

The Saints window with Brees under center is rapidly closing and this could very well be their last chance to make a run at a Super Bowl with him under center. While a lot has to go right for New Orleans to host the Lombardi Trophy, I do think this team is poised to bounce back in 2015.

They should benefit from playing in the weak NFC South, where both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of rebuilding. The Panthers form a formidable obstacle in the division, but have to face both the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, while the Saints draw the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions.

I think the offense will be just fine and I have confidence in Ryan’s ability to get the defense back on track, assuming they can avoid major injuries. The biggest thing for me, is I see the Saints returning to be a dominant force at home. I have New Orleans winning the NFC South with an overall record of 10-6, which is good enough to surpass their season win total of 9.

NFC South Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Saints 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 7 9 Payton 10
2013 11 5 Lost Div Payton 9
2012 7 9 Vitt/Kromer 9.5
2011 13 3 Lost Div Payton 10
2010 11 5 Lost WC Payton 10.5
2009 13 3 Won SB Payton 9
2008 8 8 Payton 8.5
2007 7 9 Payton 9
2006 10 6 Lost Conf Payton 7
2005 3 13 Haslett 7.5

JR Ella

Jean-Rene Ella

OVER 9 Wins – In the past 10 years, of the seven times Vegas had the over/under for the Saints’ total number of wins at a minimum of nine, New Orleans has gone on to win only seven games three times and over 10 games four times. So if you believe that history repeats itself, it’s fairly simple: with their total win number set a nine for 2015, the Saints will either go 7-9 or win at least 10 games this upcoming season.

My prediction is that the Saints will have a 10-6 record in 2015.

Football Outsiders had New Orleans’ offense ranked 7th in the NFL in 2014 and despite what most considered a down year for Drew Brees, the Saints quarterback was rated by Pro Football Focus as the 2nd QB in the NFL with a +32.6 score, behind only Aaron Rodgers (+44.7). If Payton’s tenure as the offensive play-caller in New Orleans is any indication, the Saints will once again be a top 10 offense in 2015. In fact, New Orleans is very likely to improve from their 2014 offensive ranking, as the addition of multipurpose back C.J. Spiller in the role previously held by Darren Sproles and the continued emergence of running back Mark Ingram should help take a load off of Brees’ shoulders and allow him to lower his number of interceptions (17 last season).

Defensively, New Orleans is almost inevitably bound to go up from the abomination that was 2014. Ranked 31st in total defense last season, the Saints have added defensive players through free agency and the draft that should contribute immediately. Cornerback Brandon Browner and middle linebacker Stephone Anthony (the 31st overall draft selection in 2014) are two of those new players that should pay immediate dividends for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. High-priced safety Jairus Byrd, although on the team last season, was mediocre before going on IR after playing in only four games. If Byrd is healthy in 2015, he will almost count as another new and talented defensive acquisition.

I expect the team to alternate wins and losses after a season-opening loss at the Arizona Cardinals on September 13 and struggle to a 4-4 record midway through the season. As the newly-acquired free agent defensive players and draft picks adjust to Rob Ryan’s scheme, I think New Orleans will then win both its home-game against the Titans and subsequent road contest at the Redskins to go into the team’s bye week at 6-4.

Following their bye, I believe New Orleans will go 4-2, with losses at Houston and at Atlanta. According to my prediction, the Saints will rediscover their home mojo in 2015 and go 8-0 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, a record that they had just two short years ago in 2013. It also means that they’ll be a paltry 2-6 on the road and perpetuate the notion that under Payton, New Orleans simply isn’t a very good team away from the Big Easy. However, 10-6 and a potential playoff berth should have the Black and Gold faithful excited after the debacle that was 2014.

More NFL Predictions