The New Orleans Saints are down but not out.
Following losing head coach Sean Payton for a full year because of the bounty scandal, dreams of a Super Bowl victory for the Saints started to fade.
Though a championship win is still considered a long shot at this point, the Saints have a lot of talent returning and have made the proper additions on defense to compete. Not to mention, they still have the same guy that broke Dan Marino's single-season passing record last year at quarterback in Drew Brees.
With all of that in mind, these are the five reasons why New Orleans can party with the Lombardi after Super Bowl 47.
It all rests on Drew Brees shoulders.
Brees is not only accurate, intelligent and focused on the gridiron, but he has all of the intangibles that go along with being a great player. He's a wonderful leader, and he's as competitive as any other player in the league.
The Saints might not have their head coach on the sideline in 2012, but rest assured, they'll have their offensive head coach on the field giving signals to his teammates.
It might take another record-breaking 5,476-yard effort out of Brees, but he's more than capable of raising the bar. Simply put, anytime this guy is on the field for the Saints, New Orleans always has a chance.
Though it doesn't have the name recognition of the "Big Three" down in Miami, the New Orleans trio might be just as explosive.
Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham are all at Brees' disposal, and that's a scary thought for opposing defenses.
Re-signing Colston was a big deal for the Saints. He's a lengthy receiver that has sure hands, and he recorded 80 receptions, 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
As for Sproles, his size may be lacking, but the impact he has on the field certainly isn't. At 5'6", Sproles broke the NFL all-purpose yards in a single season with 2,696 yards in 2011.
And last but not least is the game-changing tight end that broke the most yards gained in a single season for a tight end last year. Unfortunately for Graham he finished 17 yards short of Rob Gronkowski in holding the new record, but his 1,310 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns are still impressive.
These three options for Brees are some of the best options a quarterback can have, and they'll be able to cause mismatches all over the field just like they did last season.
When the Saints placed a franchise tag on Brees and lost Carl Nicks, the Saints' chances at winning another Super Bowl declined.
The Saints front office immediately picked that slope back up when they went out and grabbed the best replacement on the market. Enter Ben Grubbs.
Grubbs is an All-Pro guard that can certainly hold his own and protect Brees upfront. Losing Nicks and adding Grubbs is still considered as a downgrade, but it's not that big of one.
Nicks just so happens to be one of the best guards in the NFL, so losing him will hurt, but I can't imagine the production at guard dropping noticeably with Grubbs replacing him.
The Saints have upgraded their defense with some key additions so far this offseason.
First and foremost, the Saints got a bounty-free (hopefully) defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo on Jan. 19 and then added some key pieces at linebacker and on the defensive line.
However, the biggest free-agent signing came when the Saints were able to snatch linebacker Curtis Lofton. Lofton had 147 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions last year, so it's a great addition to a relatively weak linebacker corps.
The Saints also added Brodrick Bunkley to their defensive line in a move that will give the Saints what they were hoping they would get from Shaun Rogers last season. Last season, Rogers gave the Saints 22 tackles and little to no pressure, while Bunkley gave the Broncos 43 tackles and good pressure upfront.
Even though the Saints have lost their head coach, it's safe to say the pieces are falling together for the Saints to be as good as they were last year, if not better.
Payton really stuck it to the man when he approached Bill Parcells about being the interim head coach for the Saints.
If Parcells becomes the interim head coach for the Saints, watch out. Not only is Parcells a mentor to Payton, but he's one of those football figures that demands respect from everyone.
Let's just say hypothetically Parcells becomes the Saints' interim head coach. The minute he walks in the door every Saints player will respect him not only because he's Payton's friend, but because of what he's done in the past.
Parcells has two Super Bowl victories with the New York Giants (1986 and 1990), and Parcells matched with Brees would accumulate a lot of wins for the franchise.
For every reason I've named, the Saints are still going to compete in the NFC South and compete for another Super Bowl title, and you'd have to be a fool to count this group out.