It may need extra seasoning but all the main ingredients are in the pot and the training camp gumbo is ready to boil.
After months of addition and subtraction, the New Orleans Saints have assembled a roster that many believe is Super Bowl LIII worthy, beginning but not ending with quarterback Drew Brees who bypassed potential millions to remain in the Big Easy.
Reaching that goal won't be easy. Defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, Minnesota, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams will have something to say about who represents the NFC at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on the first Sunday in February.
And let's not forget the NFC South, where perennial nemeses Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay lie in wait.
Speaking of Tampa Bay, it appears the Buccaneers will be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston when the teams open the regular season Sept. 9 at the Mercedes Benz-Superdome. Winston reportedly will have to serve a season-opening three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, meaning he'll also be sidelined for home games against the Eagles and Pittsburgh.
Meaning the Saints will see Bucs backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Winston.
Advantage New Orleans, especially when opening the season at home.
Over the next month or so, Saints coaches and players will scatter to catch their collective breaths in anticipation of the 17-week challenge known as the 16-game NFL marathon.
I like their chances to win 11 games, defend their division crown and make a deeper playoff run than last year when they suffered an improbable walk-off loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis in the divisional round.
Here's why: My way-too-early Final 53
- WR — Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, Tre'Quan Smith, Brandon Coleman
- TE — Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
- OL — LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, C Max Unger, RG LarryWarford, RT Ryan Ramczyk, G/T Jermon Bushrod, C/G Cameron Tom, T Rick Leonard
- RB — Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Terrance West, Boston Scott
- FB — Zach Line
- QB — Drew Brees, Tom Savage, Taysom Hill
- DL — DE Cameron Jordan, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Tyeler Davison, DE Alex Okafor, DE Marcus Davenport, DT David Onyemonta, DE Trey Hendrickson, DE George Johnson, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
- LB — Demario Davis, A.J. Klein, Craig Robertson, Alex Anzalone, Hau'oli Kikaha, Nathan Stupar, Jayronne Elliott
- DB — CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Ken Crawley, CB P.J. Williams, CB Justin Hardee, S Marcus Williams, S Kurt Coleman, S Vonn Bell, S Chris Banjo, CB Kamrin Moore
Special Teams (3)
- K — Will Lutz
- P — Thomas Morstead
- LS — Zach Wood
As was the case during the offseason, I'm sure there will be additions and subtractions before the Saints take the field against Tampa Bay in September.
But I like what's in the pot right now.