Brian Allee-Walsh

The Saints are again expected to thrive, but there’s real potential for a 2019 flop

On paper, the New Orleans Saints should be able to pick up where they left off last season before an all-star crew of NFL officials inexplicably swallowed their whistles at a critical point in the NFC Championship.

For example, BetOnLine.AG sports book released its pre-draft NFL win totals for the upcoming season and updated Super Bowl LIV odds and the Black and Gold lead the way in the NFC at 8/1 to win the Lombardi Trophy with an over/under of 10 1/2 wins.

To which I say that forecast isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Here we are less than three weeks before the NFL draft, five months before the start of the season, and rosters remain influx, specifically the one in New Orleans which no longer includes four valuable veterans — RB Mark Ingram, C Max Unger, DE Alex Okafor and TE Ben Watson.

Unger and Watson retired. Ingram and Okafor now wear the colors of the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.

Each contributed mightily on the field and in the locker room in New Orleans.

Six free agents have joined the Saints to date — tight end Jared Cook, running back Latavius Murray, center Nick Easton, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive tackle/defensive end Mario Edwards and return specialist/cornerback Marcus Sherels.

One assumes they will be good teammates and good players, though I run the risk of making a jerk of myself when I assume.

It’s difficult to say what affect the departures of Ingram, Unger, Watson and Okafor will have on the 2019 Saints roster. I harken back to the 2014 season when the Saints were coming off a second-place finish in the NFC South and trip to the divisional round in 2013.

Hopes were high in ‘14 despite the team being without the likes of DE Will Smith, MLB Jonathan Vilma, S Malcolm Jenkins, CB Jabari Greer and WR Lance Moore for various reasons.

Losing that much veteran leadership in one fell swoop came with a steep price as three consecutive 7-9 seasons and failure to make the playoffs from in 2014, ‘15 and ‘16 would suggest.

Quarterback Drew Brees summed up it up best: “We felt like we were young, talented with guys ready to step up in ‘14, and unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case.’‘

I’m not suggesting that 2019 will be a repeat of 2014, though history does have a cruel and unusual way of repeating itself sometimes.

But this will be a different team and different set of circumstances. No doubt, Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis believe they are building the kind of roster that can deal with the many ups and downs of a grueling 16-game schedule and go deep into the playoffs once again.

Time will tell.

I’m merely saying Super Bowl odds and win totals from a sports book in the first week of April isn’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at