Season Preview: New Orleans Saints

Season Preview: New Orleans Saints
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Sports Mole takes a look at the New Orleans Saints' chances of returning to the playoffs in the upcoming NFL season.

Having narrowly missed out on second place in the NFC South last year, the New Orleans Saints' first priority this season will be to improve a defence that gave up an NFL record of 7,042 yards in the last campaign.

They welcome back coach Sean Payton, who returns having served a one-year suspension for his part in the team's bounty scandal.

Here, Sports Mole analyses their chances of making a return to the playoffs in the upcoming season.

Head Coach: Sean Payton

Last Season: 7-9

Review: Having had such an impressive 2011 season, much was expected of the Saints going into the 2012 campaign. However, the franchise was rocked by the bounty scandal that ultimately saw them lose a large chunk of their coaching staff.

That scandal had a big impact on their start to the regular season as they lost their opening four games before finally recording their first win when they beat the San Diego Chargers in week five.

The Saints' form picked up from then onwards as they lost just one of the next five games, including a win over rivals Atlanta Falcons that ended the Falcons' unbeaten start to the season.

A three-match losing streak put their post-season chances in jeopardy, and they were eventually ruled out of contention in week 16 despite back-to-back wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (41-0) and the Dallas Cowboys.

A 44-38 defeat to the Carolina Panthers in the final match of the season ensured that they ended the campaign in third place in the NFC South with a losing record.

Notable Ins

Sean Payton: Having Payton back as their coach following his one-year suspension is a massive plus for the Saints. He turned the Saints into perennial playoff challengers before his ban, and they will be hoping that he can pick up where he left off this season.

Kenny Vaccaro: Having had one of the worst defensive records in NFL history last season, the Saints were desperate for a player to help sort that out. Vaccaro was picked by the Saints in the first round of this year's Draft, and should instantly become the best player in a weak defensive line.

Notable Outs

Jermon Bushrod: The Saints were an offensive juggernaut in the league last season, and Bushrod played a big part in that. The offensive tackle joined the Chicago Bears during the off-season having been elected to the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season last year.

Key Player Offence: Drew Brees

Key Player Defence: Kenny Vaccaro

Rookie to watch: Kenny Vaccaro

Pre-season form: 3-1

Prediction: 11-5. Having Sean Payton in their corner will surely improve things for the Saints. Their offence is among the very best in the league and with Drew Brees in fine form they will fancy their chances of outscoring any team they come up against. Their defence is still very shaky, but the addition of Vaccaro should go some way to helping them improve on what was a dreadful defensive display last season. They will be vying for top spot in the NFC South and the playoffs are a very real possibility.

EJ Manuel of the Buffalo Bills works out during the Buffalo Bills rookie camp on May 10, 2013
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