The New Orleans Saints are at a crossroads. After three straight seasons finishing 7-9, the window is swiftly closing on the Sean Payton–Drew Brees era. Is it completely shut, though? We’re all about to find out in the Saints 2017 season simulation.
Week 1 (9/11) @ Minnesota Vikings
Right out of the gate, new Saints running back Adrian Peterson gets a homecoming. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the Vikings all-time leading rusher isn’t what he was in purple. The Minnesota defense might not have lived up to expectations last year, but there’s still plenty of talent there, especially in the defensive backfield. That will make for a long day for Brees.
Result: Minnesota 21, New Orleans 17
Week 2 (9/17) vs. New England Patriots
Last season, the Saints defense ranked toward the bottom in the league and gave up nearly 30 points per game. The team added linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o to the mix but then lost defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a heart condition. Even good defenses have trouble keeping up with Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Saints don’t have a good defense, and that’s a big problem for the home opener.
Result: New England 35, New Orleans 24
Week 3 (9/24) @ Carolina Panthers
Last year, the Saints snapped a five game losing streak to Carolina in a thrilling 41-38 shootout in Week 6. The Panthers won the second meeting which means that New Orleans can start a whole new losing streak to their NFC South rival. Cam Newton missed most of the preseason after shoulder surgery. Carolina’s star signal caller might not need to play Superman this year, though, if rookie running back Christian McCaffrey lives up to his potential. Brees knows how to score on the Panthers, but the young running back might present a new wrinkle that throws them off.
Result: Carolina 38, New Orleans 34
Week 4 (10/1) @ Miami Dolphins
After a rough start to the season, Brees and the Saints offense will have the chance to get back on the right track when Miami comes to visit. The Dolphins offense, with Jay Ajayi, DeVante Parker, and Jarvis Landry are problematic, even with Jay Cutler under center. With Miami’s defense paying attention to Michael Thomas, Brees should be able to find a player that Dolphins fans are well acquainted with — Ted Ginn Jr. The game could quickly turn into a track meet.
Result: New Orleans 41, Miami 31
Week 5 Bye
Week 6 (10/15) vs. Detroit Lions
It’s going to be a familiar theme. The Saints are going to have trouble slowing down Matthew Stafford. Much like the previous week, however, the Lions are just as ill-equipped to hang with Brees. This could be the game where the Saints power trio at running back of Peterson, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara pays off.
Result: New Orleans 28, Detroit 24
Week 7 (10/22) @ Green Bay Packers
Riding into Lambeau on a two-game winning streak is a good thing. Having to face Aaron Rodgers on his home turf is not. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has a chance to be very good, but he’s in for an education on his first visit to Mr. Rodgers neighborhood.
Result: Green Bay 34, New Orleans 24
Week 8 (10/29) vs. Chicago Bears
The Packers are the class of the NFC North. The Bears are, well, not. Whether it’s Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky taking the snaps, Chicago’s offense will struggle this season. They might be able to gash the Saints defensive front with Jordan Howard, but not enough to make up for what Brees and his stable of running backs will do to the Bears.
Result: New Orleans 41, Chicago 17
Week 9 (11/5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are a little bit hard to figure. Jameis Winston seems on the verge of stardom. The team gave him some exciting new weapons in speedy wideout DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard, to go with Mike Evans. But, Winston is still inconsistent and it takes a while to integrate those new pieces. The team is also going to face some early season challenges, though, with its first game postponed due to Hurricane Irma and running back Doug Martin suspended for the first three games. Will the team have put all of that behind them and gotten in sync by this point?
Result: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 20
Week 10 (11/12) @ Buffalo Bills
The Bills seemingly gave up on the season before it even started, trading away wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby during training camp for draft picks. Teams that are focused on the present typically don’t start jettisoning starters in August. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can be dangerous when he’s improvising, but Brees is always dangerous. The weather can be a factor in Buffalo even in early November, but that’s where being able to rely on the running game pays dividends.
Result: New Orleans 24, Buffalo 21
Week 11 (11/19) vs. Washington Redskins
By this point in the season, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins may have gotten into a groove with new wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and have the Redskins offense humming. Then again, he might also be on cruise control as he dreams of giant free agent contract offers after the season. The Washington defense with Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman can make life difficult for Brees. That would make a bigger difference if the game wasn’t at the Superdome.
Result: New Orleans 35, Washington 31
Week 12 (11/26) @ Los Angeles Rams
There are worse things in life than spending Thanksgiving weekend in L.A. Especially when playing the perpetually rebuilding Rams is part of the trip. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff should be better this season, but then, he couldn’t be much worse. Perhaps rookie head coach Sean McVay will someday morph into a next generation version of Sean Payton. It probably won’t be this season, though.
Result: New Orleans 27, Los Angeles 14
Week 13 (12/3) vs. Carolina Panthers
This could be a pivotal game for the Saints’ season. If they have any hope of making the playoffs, then they have to at least split with Carolina. If Newton is still healthy, that’s possibly a big ask, even at home. The key part might not be whether the Panthers’ quarterback is healthy, but whether their defense is. Brees can score even when Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are at their best, but they also know how to slow the Saints down just enough.
Result: Carolina 38, New Orleans 35
Week 14 (12/7) @ Atlanta Falcons
The Saints manage to avoid having to face the Falcons until late in the season. Unfortunately, they have to play the defending NFC champions on the road on a short week. Thursday night games typically do not typically favor the road team. Facing off against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman is difficult even under the best circumstances. These are not the best circumstances.
Result: Atlanta 27, New Orleans 21
Week 15 (12/17) vs. New York Jets
This season the Jets might be as close to a second bye week as the teams on their schedule will get. The Saints will even get extra time to prepare for whoever the heck New York is starting at quarterback by this point. Todd Bowles has a good defensive mind, but he doesn’t have the pieces to compete this season.
Result: New Orleans 38, New York 10
Week 16 (12/24) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Some people open their Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. This year, Santa is bringing the Saints a stocking full of Falcons. It says here that Atlanta will experience the same hangover that afflicts most Super Bowl losers. That will be a small comfort to the New Orleans defenders as Jones is catching touchdowns.
Result: Atlanta 44, New Orleans 42
Week 17 (12/31) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s at least a decent chance that this game will be meaningless for both teams. That tends to make it all about either auditioning young players for the following season or players trying to hit individual goals. Considering the ages of Brees and Peterson, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be the ones excited about finishing out another season without the playoffs.
Result: Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 21
Final record: 6-10
If the season does play out this way, it would be the Saints fourth straight losing season. That would necessitate some big changes, starting with the team parting ways with Payton. There’s at least a chance that Brees would soon follow. But, hey, at least New Orleans wouldn’t finish 7-9 again.