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Forecast: Have the Saints finally solved their linebacker problem?

I'm as shocked as you are, believe me.

NEW ORLEANS — There was so much to love about the New Orleans Saints thrashing the Green Bay Packers and quite a few pleasant surprises, but the biggest one of all might have been discovering —for the first time this century— the Saints are good and deep at linebacker. 

I'm as shocked as you are, believe me. The Saints' constant quest to have more than a single above-average linebacker the last 20 years is a staple joke of this column.

From the seemingly dozens of linebackers Jim Haslett drafted like the immortal James Allen, to Scott Shanle, Mark Simoneau, and David Hawthorne — under Sean Payton, it seems like the Saints have not been legally allowed to have more than a single good linebacker at any one time. 

Free agency, draft, or trade never seemed to do the trick.

Maybe that was the deal we made in order to be gifted the 'Dome Patrol' linebacking group in the 1990s where every single one of them was a Pro Bowler and Rickey Jackson made it to Canton. Oh, and Sam Mills will join him in the Hall of Fame eventually.

Then Sunday against the Packers happened.

Demario Davis was his usual incredible self, leading the pregame chant, flying everywhere, and destroying ball carriers. 

Did you notice who led the Saints defense in total and solo tackles? Second-year linebacker Zack Baun. 

He's a revelation and more evidence that the Saints have the best scouting and development system in the NFL. 

I'm not even going to delete all my off-season tweets calling him "Draft Bust Baun." I'll just eat all that crow. I'm not here to be right, just to make jokes.

It wasn't just Baun and Davis looking good at linebacker -- Kwon Alexander had 2 tackles and Dennis Allen had him lined up as a blitzer on the Saints' third-down packages. 

A human being is not supposed to look that good just 9 months after rupturing an Achilles.

The only thing stranger than seeing Alexander showing no effects of his Achilles injury is watching a linebacker wearing the number 5. 

Tom Brady was right. It's weird and I'm not sure I like it, though fat guys with single-digit jersey numbers are and will always be comedy in its purest form.

The Saints are suddenly so deep and talented at linebacker, we barely even noticed or cared 2021 second-round draft pick Pete Werner might not even be an actual football player and may just be the name of the new district manager at Dunder Mifflin.

It's only one game, but the Saints now have linebackers fast enough to destroy quarterback bootleg plays. Remember last year when Aaron Rogers and Derek Carr set the Saints defense on fire with bootlegs? On Sunday the Saints threw cold water all over those plays.

Speed kills. If the Saints linebackers keep this up, I'll need new material.

Saints Mood and Meditation Music: Levitating by Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby.

Be honest, our feet haven't touched the ground since about 4:30 p.m. Sunday once it was clear the Saints had knocked out the Packers cold. 

This song slaps even though I've heard it like 9,000 times. We are levitating.

The Games

Last Week: 3-2 

Season: 3-2 

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina: Do you think Sean Payton let out a deep sigh or laughed when he got told six Saints assistant coaches tested positive for COVID and saw the injury report? What the heck else can happen to the 2021 Saints? 

Displaced from Hurricane Ida, star players suspended or injured before Week 1, more injuries to stars Marshon Lattimore and Eric McCoy against Green Bay and now a Rona outbreak among the coaches? Sean Payton said after the Green Bay game, “No one cares” about the obstacles the Saints face, but it's reaching ludicrous levels and we aren't even to October.

That Bradley Roby trade is looking pretty good now that Marshon Lattimore could miss time due to thumb surgery. The Saints will need first-round draft pick Payton Turner to step up as Marcus Davenport is hurt with a strained pectoral muscle. Oh, and Kwon Alexander missed practice on Wednesday too.

The good news is the Saints will be facing a Carolina Panthers team with a very suspect offensive line. Carolina defeated the Jets 19-14 but it mostly revolved around the same old strategy they've been using the last four years – give the ball as many times as possible to Christian McCaffrey and hope for the best.

Against the Jets, McCaffrey had 21 rushes and 9 receptions. I'm sure giving him 400 combined touches like 2018 and 2019 will work out just fine. For comparison, the Saints haven't let Alvin Kamara ever have over 275 touches in a season.

Sunday won't be as fun as the Packers game, but it's really hard to equal perfection. The Saints will continue to use their great defense, run game, and not make mistakes formula to win, but they'll need a little late-game magic from Jameis. And they'll get it.

Saints 27-23

Atlanta (+13) at Tampa: The Falcons looking terrible was a very nice appetizer to the Saints stomping the Packers. Atlanta is terrible, but 13 points seems a bit much. 

Bucs 31-21

Houston (+12.5) at Cleveland: The Texans might be bad, but their coach David Culley is fun and likable, they play hard for him, and the Browns shouldn't be favored by this much over anyone.

Texans 23-20

Miami (+3) vs Buffalo: Are we sure Buffalo is really good? 

Dolphins 28-21

Denver (-6) at Jacksonville: The Saints delivered the most complete performance by a home team Jags fans will see in person all season. 

Broncos 31-17

Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.