There are tons of reasons why the New Orleans Saints won't win in 2012.
There is the distraction of Bountygate—the annoyingly named Saints bounty scandal—, there is the year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, the six-game suspension of assistant head coach/interim head coach Joe Vitt and the suspensions of several notable players like Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma.
There's Robert Meachem and Carl Nicks leaving in free agency.
Then there's the Drew Brees contract issue, which dragged out longer than anyone could have predicted.
So yes, there are many reasons why the Saints will fail in 2012.
But there are a few reasons they will win. And one of them is pretty big.
That one reason is Drew Brees.
The one thing that holds true in the NFL—year in, year out—is that franchise quarterbacks win games. If Brees isn't a franchise quarterback, no one is.
Yes, the Brees contract situation did drag out, but he's back and ready to play now, in time for training camp. Does an elite veteran quarterback like Brees really need minicamps?
For whatever reason, people seem to overlook how incredible Brees is, focusing instead on other upper-echelon quarterbacks.
Brees holds the NFL record for most passing yards in a single season. He also holds the two highest completion percentages over the course of a full season. He is a surefire Hall of Famer.
It doesn't matter who is running the offense. Drew Brees will score points and win games.
And though Payton won't be running the offense in 2012, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will still be around. In fact, Carmichael even called plays for a few games in 2011 due to Sean Payton's leg injury and surgery.
While Payton may be an offensive guru, Brees is what makes the offense run smoothly, and the Saints won't be undergoing an offensive overhaul.
How Good Will the Saints be in 2012?
As for the free-agent losses, the Saints' roster is still sitting fine. Meachem was never a huge contributor, and the team signed Ben Grubbs to replace Nicks. That's not a huge downgrade.
To replace the suspended Vilma, the Saints signed three solid linebackers in Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain.
New Orleans even upgraded at defensive tackle by signing Brodrick Bunkley.
There's no reason the Saints defense won't be at least as good as it was in 2011, with Steve Spagnuolo now running the unit.
So why exactly would the Saints be worse in 2012?
The loss of Payton will hurt—there is no denying that—but Brees and Carmichael will keep the offense from tumbling.
On defense, New Orleans actually upgraded a couple units despite injuries, and neither Vilma nor Smith is an All-Pro-caliber player.
That leaves only the distraction of Bountygate. The situation is less than ideal for sure, but is it really the end of the world?
In midst of the infamous New England Patriots video tape incident—dubbed Spygate—the Patriots went 18-1.
The distraction didn't seem to hurt them too much.
Since the Saints acquired Brees, they have been an elite team in the NFL. Nothing is going to stop that.
Not even the loss of one of the NFL's best head coaches.