Forecast: Are you a Saints optimist? You might want to skip this column

The 2016 New Orleans Saints don't look like an ascending football team; they look like a man in a life raft, adrift in the ocean wondering where everything went wrong.

"That cruise to the Caribbean looked SO GREAT, until the captain ran the ship aground!"

2016 isn't the end of the golden era of Saints football, that happened when the Saints won a road playoff game in Philadelphia in January 2014.

This will be the beginning of the painful, awful transition to whatever comes next.

Saints fans, we are the equivalent of the family that was poor, hit it big, had a decade of the good life, but made some bad decisions, lost most of our savings, and will soon be living in one-bedroom apartment over the bus station.

It's no fun saying that, as writing a season preview predicting the Saints are going to be terrible is like telling everyone the movie we have been waiting 8 months to see is going to be horrible. It wasn't one thing that led us here, and there is no need to recap the bad drafts, worse free agent signings, and NFL bounty witch hunt. Each one was a massive wave eroding the foundation laid in 2006.

How does one go about predicting the Saints are going to go 4-12 and make it entertaining and funny? I don't have alcohol or funny crying Jordan memes to ease this coming pain, you'll need to get that yourself.

The reason I have a bad feeling about the 2016 Saints is because they are going to need an EXTRAORDINARY amount of things to go right to have a good season, but only need a few things to go wrong to make this the longest Saints season in 2 decades.

Here is a partial list of what has to go right for Saints to be good...

  1. The offensive line fairy needs to deliver at least 1 or possibly 2 starting guards before Sunday to help keep Drew Brees in one piece. For about 24 hours it seemed like the offensive line fairy was real as the Green Bay Packers released all pro guard Josh Sitton. The Saints were reportedly very interested, unfortunately Sitton signed with the Chicago Bears, which proves the offensive line fairy is real but hates New Orleans. The Saints had Jahri Evans, who they released in the spring, in for a visit. Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder? Or the Saints are just desperate? When they sign him and he starts Sunday, it will be like Jahri NEVER LEFT!
  2. The Saints are counting on 2 Cleveland Brown castoffs (Paul Kruger and Craig Robertson) to help improve their pass rush and linebacking corps. This seems unlikely, but Kruger does have magnificent hair that we can admire all year long.
  3. Zach Strief needs to beat back father time and not be horrible because his planned replacement, Andrus Peat, is busy struggling at guard. The Saints offensive line issue is going to be as pleasant to talk about this season as the presidential election on Facebook.
  4. PJ Williams, Delvin Breaux, Vonn Bell and a bunch of other really young defensive backs need to be really good, really fast so the pass defense doesn't give up 45 touchdown throws like it did in 2015. Rookie defensive backs are usually roasted early and often, so I'm skeptical if the Saints young guys can hold up.
  5. 5. The Saints need an NFL quality kicker. Will it be Connor Barth Kai Forbath Wil Lutz? Even if the Saints are decent, they figure to be in a lot of close games, and kicking is kind of important. Who’s ready to watch the Saints get to 15 different kickers under Sean Payton? It’s all part of Sean’s master plan to have to go for 2 every time after a touchdown isn’t it? Bookmark this article and remember me when the Saints miss a 26yard kick to lose a game this month. Payton picked the wrong kicker again and he should pay for our therapy when bad kicking costs them games and drives us to drink our liquor supply dry.
  6.  Sheldon Rankins needs to be really good once he returns from a broken leg. The other hope for the Saints at defensive tackle is Nick Fairley, whose main accomplishment in the NFL appears to be under achievement.

That's pretty long list huh? If Saints don't have each and every one of those things go their way, getting to 8-8 seems like a fantasy. While the list of things needed for glory feels long and unlikely, the list of things which would mean disaster seems short and destined to happen....

  1. Significant injury or less than outstanding play from Terron Armstead or Cam Jordan. If Armstead isn't elite the offensive line will be worse than a mess, and with the way the Saints play defense, the offense needs to be scoring a lot and won't be if blocking is just some memory and not a reality. If Jordan doesn't deliver double-digit sacks, the trend of every opposing quarterback looking like Tom Brady will continue, along with Saints fans crying out for mercy from the football gods.
  2. Drew Brees starting less than 14 games. Brees will be 38 early next year; do you think the current Saints offensive line will be able to keep him in one piece? Did you know the Saints were one of the top 5 least injured offenses in 2015? They desperately need good injury luck again. Since the Saints are reportedly close to signing Brees to an extension, it’d be great if he is able to play on Sundays.  

I actually think a lot will go right for the Saints in 2016 but the offensive line will be disastrous and ruin everything. The offensive line will be like that distant relative who you hope won't make your Thanksgiving dinner awful but you know in your heart will. Everything was going so well and then suddenly plates are getting tossed, the curtains are on fire, and Aunt Betty has stormed off. The story of the 2016 Saints will be, “It could have been so wonderful, except for the horrible offensive line, sacks, and infinite sadness.”

16 For 50 Since the Saints are celebrating their 50th Anniversary, every week I'm going to talk about a memorable moment from team history. Some everyone will remember, while some will be odd and forgotten moments. This week's Saints moment is the opening game of the 1987 season.

The Saints heading into the 1987 had never had a winning season and had only won 3 season openers in their history. Jim Mora was heading into his second season, and after leading the Saints to a 7-9 season in 1986, optimism was high heading into 1987. Pope John Paul II had even blessed the Louisiana Superdome for the Saints during his visit earlier in the year.

Mora might be remembered as the guy who ranted in post-game press conferences and the coach who never won a playoff game, but what he did for the Saints shouldn't be forgotten. Before he and general

manager Jim Finks arrived, New Orleans might have had an NFL team, but they were hardly professionally run. Did you know before 1987 the Saints had never played in front of consecutive sellouts in the Superdome?

The Saints opened the 1987 season hosting the Cleveland Browns, who were coming off an AFC Championship game loss to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The Saints won 28-21 behind 2 Bobby Hebert touchdown passes and a defense that sacked Bernie Kosar twice in the endzone for safeties.

The Saints went on to go 12-3 in 1987 and I'd argue that was the year the Saints became an actual functioning, competitive, competent NFL operation.

The Games

Oakland (+1) at New Orleans: The Raiders might be moving to Las Vegas and abandoning Oakland, but they are young, talented, and have a defensive superstar in Khalil Mack, who might be the Saints weak offensive line's worst nightmare. Maybe the Saints have kept complicated things like pass protection and run blocking hidden in August and will unleash it against the Raiders? Miracles happen every single day. This is all pretty gloomy and you want something good to cling to? Drew Brees is still awesome as long as he's not getting ground into the turf, the Saints skill position players are potentially very good, and we are still talking about Oakland. Never forget, failure isn't just an activity for the Raiders, but a lifestyle. Sometimes those west coast teams treat the noon kickoff like a college freshman treats 9 a.m. political science and simply don't show up. We can always hope but right now I can't believe in the 2016 Saints until they give me something to believe in.

Raiders 31-17

Houston (-6) vs Chicago: Did Ryan Pace do his old boss Mickey Loomis dirty or what? Pace, who runs the Bears, not only beat the Saints to signing guard Josh Sitton, but he signed Connor Barth to kick for Chicago. Mickey Loomis has to be shaking his head and wondering how every chance he had to get a decent guard ended in tears.

Texans 25-17

Carolina (-3) at Denver: The Panthers are about to waltz to their fourth straight NFC South title. I hate 2016 football so much already.

Panthers 21-6

Tampa Bay (+3) at Atlanta: Our one bright spot in 2016 will be the Falcons matching the Saints step for step in awfulness.

Bucs 34-23

Minnesota (-2) at Tennessee: The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season and gave up a first

and fourth round pick for Sam Bradford. It's true! There hasn't been a worse quarterback trade since the Saints traded first, second, and third round picks for Steve Walsh instead of just resigning Bobby Hebert. This will not end well for the Vikings.

Vikings 27-16

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at ralphmalbrough@hotmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes. 

 


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