The New Orleans Saints will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.
Is that direct enough?
I've stuck my neck out now.
I feel good about this, but I've placed calls to my insurance agent for life insurance just in case.
As with every team, a few things need to come together this season for the Saints to meet my expectations—and for me to keep my head on my shoulders.
Ten wins is a must for a playoff birth this season, although I expect to see the Saints end up 11-5, and possibly 12-4.
That is asking a lot from a defense that has been horrible the past couple of seasons, yet that is how things work in the NFL. Not much happens gradually. While there are teams that improve year-to-year and win consistently, more often than not a team's successes evolve quickly.
This is typically due to exceptional quarterback play, a bit of good luck, chemistry, and young talent.
The Saints' season depends on quarterback Drew Brees. Brees needs to have yet another Pro Bowl caliber season for the Saints to taste success. Without a strong season for Brees, the Saints will be mediocre at best.
The "good luck" component is not something you can forecast, but life experience has shown me that superior preparation and a gritty, never-say-die attitude tips the odds in your favor.
Success starts at the top and head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are tireless workers who have a lot to prove.
I am confident that they will work together, complement each other, scheme effectively, and have their team ready to play each week.
The lack of chemistry is likely the weak link in this chain, and could be the reason why the Saints falls short.
Defensive end Charles Grant must serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy and tight end Jeremy Shockey recently needed medical assistance after partying too hard.
Neither episodes bode well for team chemistry.
Team leaders must show up and work harder than everyone else, and players like Shockey and Grant must show up and find a way to overcome their selfish instincts and play team ball with a team attitude.
The Saints have the leaders to make this happen. Brees has shown up and is leading the way and running back Reggie Bush could emerge as a leader this year.
Full back Heath Evans is a determined newcomer who has tasted victory. He has the grit and work ethic to inspire others and will be picking up first downs by grinding out short yardage in key situations. Together, this should give him credibility in the locker room.
Chemistry is a huge factor for this Saints squad and it must evolve, starting in the off-season.
In spite of these hurdles, I believe.
I believe Payton will put it all together this year. He will have a cool head in tight situations and manage the clock well. His schemes will have his offensive talent playing like an orchestra.
Williams will have full control over the defense and he will quietly blend the right talent with the right calls, allowing an otherwise average defense to excel.
I believe Brees will stay healthy, and dish the rock fast and furiously to his hungry play makers.
I believe Bush will gallop while running back Pierre Thomas dazzles, Evans grinds, Shockey excites, and wide receiver Marques Colston and the other receivers streak.
I believe a balanced attack will emerge this year. The Saints will be able to control the ball and win a game both the old-fashioned way, and by simply outpacing their opponents.
The improved secondary, the new coach, and a ball control offense will produce a top ten defense.
Whether the Saints limp in to the playoffs at 10-6, or fly in at 12-4, they will make it to the title game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With their young talent, team chemistry, and Pro Bowl quarterback, the Saints will find a bit of luck to put them over the top and into Super Bowl XLIV.