Can the New Orleans Saints repeat as Super Bowl champions? The answer, of course, is “Yes, they can.” More to the point, the question should be: “Will they?” And the answer to that question is a resounding “Who really knows?” or “Time will tell.” But the New Orleans Saints begin their long march back to the Super Bowl at home in New Orleans against the team they had to beat to get to the last Super Bowl — the Minnesota Vikings. The two teams will square off in the NFL season opener Thursday on NBC, while the other 30 teams begin their march later in the weekend (and on Monday Night).
Getting to the Super Bowl again will be a difficult matter for New Orleans. They will have to battle their way through a tough crowd in the NFC, from the revenge-focused Vikings to the loaded Dallas Cowboys to the resurgent San Francisco 49ers. Unlike the AFC, which has been completely dominated by the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots, and the San Diego Chargers for the past several seasons, the NFC is a minefield of potential Super Bowl contenders. .
The first order of business for the Saints will be to win the division. They will have to contend with an Atlanta Falcons team that has been getting stronger for the past couple seasons. Outside their division, they will play (besides Minnesota) the aforementioned Cowboys and 49ers, plus the always-tough Arizona Cardinals. Extra-conference games could prove pitfalls as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals., and the Baltimore Ravens.
According to most predictions for the coming NFL Playoffs, New Orleans’ key competition for the NFC Championship will be the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, the Bleacher Report and a few others believe Dallas will make it into Super Bowl XLV. Most who see a Dallas Cowboys-Indianapolis Colts match-up see Romo and company losing to Peyton Manning’s Colts.
In fact, a quick surf of Internet predictions seems to reveal that almost all predictors point to the Indianapolis Colts as favored to win the Super Bowl. Again.
Still, like New Orleans, they have to get there.
But the New Orleans Saints return with nearly the same roster that got them into last season’s Super Bowl. Barring what is commonly referred to as the Super Bowl “hangover” — the propensity for Super Bowl-winning teams to go into a slump — a Saints repeat run on the Lombardy Trophy is very much a strong possibility. But they could start off in a bit of a hole.
According to ESPN, the Saints will also be without All-Pro safety Darren Sharper, out for at least the first six games due to microsurgery on his knee. Jonathan Vilma, the Saints leading tackler, is questionable as well, having pulled a groin muscle during preseason. Key injuries and a few mistakes could see New Orleans start the season at 0-3, considering that their first three games include the Vikings, the 49ers, and the Falcons.
But head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees and their #1-ranked offense (2009 regular season) — with a few defensive adjustments — just might be able to hold off Brett Favre and the Vikings, not to mention the other 15 contenders for a repeat Super Bowl performance. Time will tell…