2011 Record: 13-3, 1st Place in NFC South
Overall Series Record: 16-11
Record At New Orleans: 8-8
Last Meeting: Sept. 9, 2009 in Philadelphia - New Orleans, 48-22
Game Recap: Making his first-career start for an injured Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb threw for 391 yards and two touchdowns - which included a 71-yard strike to
Key Offseason Moves
In: QB Drew Brees (franchise tag), DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR Marques Colston, G Ben Grubbs, LB David Hawthorne, LB Curtis Lofton, LB Chris Chamberlain, K John Kasay, DT Remi Ayodele, DE Akiem Hicks
Out: Head coach Sean Payton, G Carl Nicks, WR Robert Meachem, CB Tracy Porter, LB Jonathan Vilma
The New Orleans Saints have endured one of the toughest offseasons in league history as a result of Bounty Gate and as a result will not have head coach Sean Payton or linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012 season.
Not that anyone is shedding a tear for them. Nonetheless, the Saints will have their coaching staff in place as interim head coach Joe Vitt’s suspension will expire prior to this Monday night showdown in one of the toughest places to play in the league.
The Saints had a historic year offensively in 2011 behind quarterback Drew Brees' NFL record 5,476 passing yards. However, the NFC South champions were upended by the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs after Alex Smith's comeback antics.
It will be interesting to see how this team responds to the offseason turmoil. Brees was franchised by the Saints, but has not yet signed the tender as he hopes for a long-term deal. As long as Brees remains one of the game's elite quarterbacks, the Saints will be a difficult test for Juan Castillo's defense. The Saints have a plethora of weapons in the pass game with Marques Colston returning and dominant tight end Jimmy Graham. On the ground, the Saints can get physical with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas or beat you in the screen game with Darren Sproles. The Saints lost one of the league's best guards in Carl Nicks, but quickly replaced him with Ben Grubbs.
The defense will be in the spotlight. The key to the Saints' Super Bowl season in 2009 was their penchant for turnovers. New coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will hope to transform the defense into what he had when he helped the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2007. They added some muscle to the interior of the defensive line with former Eagle Brodrick Bunkley. With linebacker Jonathan Vilma suspended all season for his role in Bounty Gate, the Saints overhauled the linebacking corps with the additions of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne.
The Saints still have a very talented team. They could rally together in light of the distractions caused by the Bounty Gate scandal or they could struggle in 2012.