Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saints Nation: Previewing the 2009 Saints' Regular Season (part 1)

Below you'll find a short preview of each regular season matchup the Saints have in 2009, just to get you revved up for the upcoming year.

Week 1 vs. Detroit Lions (9/13): The Saints will host in week 1 the Lions who went 0-16 last year. Dating back to 2007 they've lost 17 consecutive regular season matchups. This is a gimme and must win for the Saints. Last year behind 532 yards of offense, the Saints beat Detroit 42-7. The Lions has since drafted Matt Stafford at quarterback, but it is unclear if he'll start over Daunte Culpepper for the first game. As the 30th ranked offense in the NFL last year, this should be a good way for the Saints' new defense to start. On the defensive side, The Lions ranked dead last last year as well as points given up, so it's a terrific matchup for the Saints and their potent offense. The Saints really cannot afford to lose this one. The Lions figure to be slightly improved defensively with the offseason additions of veterans Philip Buchannon, Grady Jackson, Larry Foote, and Anthony Henry - but it should still be a weakness.

Week 2 @ Philadelphia Eagles (9/20): The first major test of the season, as the Saints travel to Philly. The Eagles were a playoff team a year ago, and quarterback Donovan McNabb is fresh off a 2 year extension signed in the offseason. With the McNabb-Westbrook offensive duo, it always figures to be a difficult task stopping them... but the Eagles may be weaker than in years past. They've lost several key players and veterans and have done little to replace them this offseason. Gone are: defensive leader Brian Dawkins, o-line anchors Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, and contributors L.J. Smith, Sean Considine and Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles still have a solid core of players but it will be difficult to repeat as the league's 9th offense and 3rd defense. Last time the two teams played in 2007, the Eagles won 38-23.

Week 3 @ Buffalo Bills (9/27): Back to back road games will be tough on the Saints early in the season, which is why that gimme Detroit game is so important to win. Buffalo ended last year at 7-9 but were very dangerous, especially early in the year. They started 4-0 and 5-1 before falling apart behind spotty quarterback play. Despite a mediocre season the Bills have decided to go into 2009 again with Trent Edwards as their guy. The Bills were the 25th offense and 14th defense last year. The Saints haven't played Buffalo since 2005 when they won 19-7. Bills star running back Marshawn Lynch should be serving the last of his 3 game suspension for this game, so the Saints will likely face Dominic Rhodes who was added as insurance for the Bills backfield. The high profile addition of the offseason for Buffalo was of course Terrell Owens, so the Saints new and improved backfield will have their hands full covering him.

Week 4 vs. New York Jets (10/4): A late season meltdown cost the 9-7 Brett Favre led Jets the playoffs last year. The Jets have since let go of Favre and drafted rookie Marc Sanchez of USC to fill his shoes. The Jets were 16th in both offense and defense last season. The last time these two teams played in 2005, the Saints won 21-19. The Jets' biggest addition of the offseason was Lito Sheppard, though they also got special teams ace Larry Izzo, backup running back Jason Leonhard and re-sign a lot of their key players.

Week 5 BYE

Week 6 vs. New York Giants (10/18): Huge test for the Saints as they face the 2007 Superbowl champions. Eli Manning is back at the helm, although he won't be with Plaxico Burress as his favorite target anymore. The Giants were 7th in offense and 5th in defense last year, posting a very solid 12-4 season. They also added some very solid players to their defense this offseason with Rocky Bernard, Michael Boley, Chris Canty and C.C. Brown. The last time these two teams played was 2006, which ended with a 30-7 Saints win. This game will be the first one back for defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant after serving their suspensions.

Week 7 @ Miami Dolphins (10/25): The Saints lost the last matchup between these two, 21-6 in 2005. The Dolphins had the 12th offense and 15th defense last year (25th against the pass, though) which lead to an improbable 11-5 season and playoff birth. This was an incredible transformation from the previous year when they ended the season 1-15 and it can be in large part attributed to Bill Parcells' offseason moves as well as the terrific play of quarterback Chad Pennington. This will be another very tough game for the Saints. The Dolphins stayed put for the most part with their roster, though they did add Will Allen and bring back former Miami icon Jason Taylor.

Week 8 vs. Atlanta Falcons (11/2): This will mark the first time the Saints face a division opponent in 2009. The Falcons were 6th in offense and 24th in defense a year ago. When they visited New Orleans last year the Saints won a terrific game 29-25. As if the Falcons weren't scary enough on offense with budding star quarterback Matt Ryan, bruising runner Michael Turner, and emerging threat Roddy White, they've also added arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Tony Gonzalez. Defensively they went mostly via the draft in trying to improve on their struggles of a season ago, notably adding Peria Jerry and William Moore, as their first 5 picks were defensive players. They also signed linebacker Mike Peterson to replace Michael Boley.

Check back tomorrow for the preview of weeks 9 through 17.