Saints set for final run, NFL power rankings, Le’Veon Bell update and more

NFL


The New Orleans Saints were a miracle away from the NFC Championship Game a year ago. Now, with an aging Drew Brees, they charge toward a title once more.

A final run for the Saints, already? It feels like this edition just showed up, and in many ways, it did. New Orleans won the Super Bowl back in 2009, but only Drew Brees remains on the roster from that championship glory.

Going into 2018, the team is led by a new crop that includes last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in Alvin Kamara and the Defensive Rookie of the Year in Marhson Lattimore. The supporting cast around them is abundant, with Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, Sheldon Rankins, Cameron Jordan, and Brees leading the way.

In short, the Saints have all the makings of a team set to be a threat for years, save for one important number: 39. That’s the age of Brees, who still remains the most important player on the team by a wide margin.

New Orleans doesn’t have time for its core to mature, which is why you saw aggressiveness (perhaps recklessness) out of general manager Mickey Loomis during the draft. The Saints traded up 13 spots and dealt away next year’s first-round pick to the Green Bay Packers in order to select Marcus Davenport, a bookend to Jordan on the defensive line.

For many, including yours truly, that move represented both a severe overpay and clear desperation from a front office worried about winning today and little else.

Simultaneously, though, it showcased a team understanding it’s situation.

Those running matters down in the Bayou understand the truth about today’s NFL. Without a star quarterback, it is brutally difficult to win big. Brees represents a first-ballot Hall of Famer under center who remains near the peak of his powers. Unfortunately, approaching 40 years old, one hit can change that narrative quickly.

In a loaded NFC South with the likes of the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, the Saints are fighting a tough battle. Their quarterback is aging, the division isn’t forgiving and the conference in totality is a gauntlet.

Yet for all those hard truths, here’s the most important one of all: New Orleans is good enough to win it all right now.

Few teams are more complete across the board, with the Saints finally having a capable defense to accompany an explosive offense. New Orleans doesn’t have to be dominant defensively, but simply good enough to tamp down a few drives and take the ball away on occasion.

With Brees still able to throw the ball around the Superdome at will, the Saints are both prolific and dangerous for all who face them.

That statement won’t be true forever, but for now, Brees and Co. are a force to be reckoned with.

Power rankings

Top 10 bygone venues in NFL history

1. Memorial Stadium – Baltimore Colts
2. RFK Stadium – Washington Redskins
3. Orange Bowl – Miami Dolphins
4. Mile High Stadium – Denver Broncos
5. Cleveland Municipal Stadium – Cleveland Browns
6. Metropolitan Stadium – Minnesota Vikings
7. Three Rivers Stadium – Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Wrigley Field – Chicago Bears
9. Astrodome – Houston Oilers
10. Veterans Stadium – Philadelphia Eagles

Quotable

“Us NFL players, we’re just mad about NBA contracts right now, that’s all. Those guys are getting like $150 [million]. It’s crazy. It’s insane.”

– Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley on the contracts for NBA and NFL players

It’s tough to blame Gurley for this stance, but it’s a pipe dream. The NBA has rosters a quarter of the standard NFL roster, along with a heavier reliance on stars. Additionally, the Association is run by said stars with farmer control than any NFL player. has, including quarterbacks.

Still, Gurley should be enthused. The NFL’s cap has been rising more than $10 million on average each of the past five years. Contracts are only going to get larger, something we might see this summer with the likes of Khalil Mack, Julio Jones, David Johnson and Jadeveon Clowney, among others.

Podcast

Matt Verderame is back this week, re-joining Josh Hill to talk all things NFL on the latest Stacking The Box episode. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and/or watch the episodes every Monday afternoon on FanSided’s Facebook page at 1 p.m. ET.

Random stat

There is not a single NFL team that has played a postseason game against all of its conference opponents.

Info learned this week

1. LeSean McCoy faces ugly allegations of abuse

LeSean McCoy might be in very serious trouble. The Buffalo Bills running back was accused on Tuesday of beating his ex-girlfriend, Delicia Cordon, by her friend in a graphic Instagram post. The now-deleted photo included a caption that alleged McCoy also beat his dog and son, did illegal drugs and took steroids.

In the aftermath, McCoy denied any involvement of the brutal home invasion, although Cordon’s subsequent allegations (and her initial 911 call) state her belief that McCoy had her set up.

If McCoy was involved in this, in any way, jail time could be forthcoming. As for his NFL days, it’s tough to see him surviving something this ugly if any fraction of the accusations are proven true.

The Buffalo star has hired Don Samuel to represent him, the same lawyer who was involved in the Ray Lewis double-murder trial. Of course, all the facts need to come to light and the legal system has to play out, but this is a horrific situation that may involve one of the league’s top players.

2. Giants, Redskins land corners in supplemental draft

A pair of NFC East rivals added to their defenses during the NFL’s Supplemental Draft. The Giants nabbed Sam Beal out of Western Michigan, using a third-round choice to bolster their secondary. Washington waited until the sixth, landing local product Adonis Alexander out of Virginia Tech.

While neither projects to be a starter out of training camp, both should provide intriguing projects with high upside, particularly in the case of Beal. The Giants have seen Eli Apple become a bust to this point, so if the youngster can show promise early, perhaps he finds his way onto the field.

As an aside, the first player to be taken in the history of the supplemental draft was Al Hunter, a running back who went to the Seattle Seahawks in 1977. Seattle dipped into the pool again 10 years later, selecting Brian Bosworth.

The only Hall of Famer ever taken in the supplemental draft? Cris Carter, three rounds after Bosworth to the Philadelphia Eagles.

3. Franchise tag deadline comes today

The deadline for players on the franchise tag to sign a long-term deal is Monday afternoon, and reports are calling for a slow day.

Defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and DeMarcus Lawrence of the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, respectively, are not expected to come to terms. Both are being tagged for the first time, and will receive $17.143 million in 2018. They can negotiate again after the season ends, although it’s likely both will hit unrestricted free agency.

Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell is the major name to watch. It’s believed that his camp and the Steelers have made progress toward a pact, although nothing is imminent. Pittsburgh might be wise to let Bell play out his second consecutive season on the tag before letting him walk, considering running backs wear down quickly, and Bell has taken on plenty of punishment.

Last year, Bell had 406 touches in 15 games, while in 2016 he amassed 336 in 12 contests. Although only 26 years old, it’s reasonable to think his next contract will look like an overpay in short order.

4. Hall of Fame jilts T.O. 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is holding its annual induction ceremony the first weekend of August, and Terrell Owens won’t be part of it. Despite being a member of the esteemed 2018 class, Owens decided not to show up, instead holding his own party in Tennessee.

In retaliation, the Hall of Fame won’t mention Owens during any of the weekend’s individual portions. Frankly, it’s the right move by the committee.

The Hall would rather avoid any mention of the mercurial Owens, who decided to take his show elsewhere during their, and his, highlighted moment. It’s his right to skip, and it’s their right to give him a bust, mail him a jacket and move on with the other inductees.

Speaking of which, the incoming class is loaded with the likes of Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins and Brian Urlacher, senior members Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

5. Jets load up at safety with Bryant

The New York Jets didn’t select anybody in the supplemental draft, but they still nabbed an intriguing young talent. General manager Mike Maccagnan was able to sign Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant, providing more competition and depth to a suddenly deep secondary.

New York already invested its first two picks of the 2017 NFL Draft in safeties with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Now, the Jets have Bryant to push the young duo, while free-agent signee Trumaine Johnson locks down one side of the field.

Gang Green has a long way to go, but the bones are there for a future.

History lesson

In 2006, the Kansas City Chiefs reached the playoffs in one of the wildest ways imaginable.

Entering Week 17, Kansas City needed to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium, while getting four other results, all of which included road teams winning. For starters, the New England Patriots had to defeat the Tennessee Titans, while the Steelers had to upend the Cincinnati Bengals in Bill Cowher’s final game.

Additionally, Kansas City also had to hope for the Broncos to lose to the lowly San Francisco 49ers in the late window.

Incredibly, it all happened for the Chiefs. New England blew out Tennessee. Pittsburgh edged Cincinnati in an overtime upset, and San Francisco rallied fro a 13-point deficit to beat Denver on an overtime field goal from Joe Nedney.

There have been plenty of years with wild finishes to the regular season, but 2006 saw one of the zaniest.

Parting shot

This will be the second year without professional football in San Diego since 1961, and it still feels wrong. Occasionally, relocation of a franchise seems necessary, as it was with the Houston Oilers in the mid-90s and St. Louis Cardinals in 1988. It was time.

The same can’t be said for the Chargers, who were ripped away from one of America’s finest cities to play second fiddle in Los Angeles. Owner Alex Spanos couldn’t get a publicly financed stadium, so he bolted for the plush digs in Carson, whenever that stadium gets erected.

Still, the Chargers will never have the fanbase that the Rams enjoy, and even they are a fickle bunch.

Ultimately, as we embark on another year of Chargers football, I still find myself referring to the team as “San Diego.” Why? Because it remains impossible to believe what happened.

 



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