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2011 NFL previews: New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints did a lot of work this off season. No less than 17 veteran players were brought in via free agency or trade. They have stocked up the O line, gotten beefy along the D line, and retooled the running game. They play in a tough division, and if they want to win again they better do it before the upstarts in their division really get good.

So the O line now sports Olin Kreutz as the center, and the running game now features rookie RB Mark Ingram and veteran Darren Sproles. Expect Ingram and Pierre Thomas to split the load with Sproles taking on the role of the recently departed Reggie Bush. The receivers are good, and this is an offense that can score a lot of points.

On defense free agents Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin come in to beef up the front seven. The real question here is if they can help the Saints consistently stop the run. They ranked just 16th against the run last year and that is why these two men were brought in to beef up the interior of the D line. I like the move to the 4-3 defense, but beyond MLB Jonathan Vilma there are some questions in the LB corps. The secondary is great, and I expect this team to make things very interesting in the NFC South.

The Saints have a very late bye, all the way in week eleven. They will open up at the Green Bay Packers, and then the Chicago Bears at home. The schedule gets a little easier from there, but a showdown at the Atlanta Falcons comes in week ten. After the bye, I see three winnable games and a few stiff challenges from upstart teams like the Detroit Lions. When I look at their schedule I see nine games this team should win, and a few more they could win. They feel like a 10 win team, but the road to that is pretty tough.

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