Some say the Green Bay Packers will go 16-0 and eventually be the first 19-0 team NFL history. Others believe the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots could be Super Bowl champions at the season's end.
However, the Saints deserve to be Super Bowl favorites in 2011. They have proved time and again this year that they can beat the toughest opponents and prove critics wrong, yet they do not seem as though they are a serious title contender.
Here are six reasons why the New Orleans Saints should be Super Bowl XLVI favorites.
Drew Brees by himself should be a huge reason to favor the Saints as Super Bowl contenders.
He currently leads the league in passing yards (4,368) and completion percentage (70.9). He is third in the league in touchdowns (32) and quarterback rating (105.9). Brees has had an amazing 2011 season so far, but in the months of November and December he has been absolutely lights out.
In fact, no quarterback has been better than Brees in the past four weeks of this NFL season. Since Week 11, Brees has thrown for 1,364 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He is completing 70.1 percent of his passes and that all adds up to a 119.0 passer rating.
Compare that to Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, who seem to be Brees' main competition in the quarterback spot this year. Rodgers, since Week 11, has thrown for 1,256 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has completed 63 percent of his passes and accumulated a 107.8 passer rating.
Brady has thrown for 1,241 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. He is completing 65.5 percent of his passes and has posted a 116.6 quarterback rating.
As of late, Brees' play on the field has skyrocketed, whereas Rodgers and Brady have both trailed off a little. Brees instantly makes the Saints a potential Super Bowl winner, and with his recent play the Saints should definitely be favored to win the 2011 Super Bowl.
Brees' teammates are not exactly slackers either.
He is surrounded by a very talented offensive roster and has an abundant amount of weapons. The Saints offensive line is seventh in the NFL with 23 sacks allowed and has allowed the second-fewest amount of hits on Brees. The line also anchors the eighth-best running attack in the National Football League, not to mention block for the best passing offense in all of football.
The wide receiver corps for the Saints is as deep and talented as any team in the country. They have a solid No. 1 receiver in Marques Colston, two very capable deep threats in Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem and a fantastic possession receiver who runs crisp routes in Lance Moore. They also have arguably the best tight end in football this year in Jimmy Graham.
Graham is currently fifth in the league with 1,101 receiving yards and also has eight touchdown catches on the year. Colston is also having a good year with 826 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and Colston missed two games.
The Saints also have the deepest stable of running backs in the NFL. They have Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory on their roster. They also have Joique Bell on the practice squad, and he led the team in rushing throughout the preseason.
Ingram, Sproles and Thomas all have more than 400 rushing yards, and Ivory adds another 138 rushing yards in the three games he has played. Sproles has 580 receiving yards and Thomas has 344 so far this year.
The Saints offense is the most talented in the National Football League and can hurt opposing teams in just about any way possible. It can throw it on you or run it down your throat. It really is "pick your poison" with this Saints team. The offense alone gives enough reasoning as to why this team should be favored for the Super Bowl.
Despite the bad reputation the Saints defense gets, they do enough to win games for New Orleans.
They are currently 30th against the pass and 15th against the run. The Saints defense has porous numbers because, most of the time, teams are playing catch-up against New Orleans and therefore passing the ball non-stop against this Saints secondary.
The Saints defense is definitely your bend-but-don't-break type of defense and it runs it to perfection. Take last Sunday's game against the Titans, for example. The Saints shut down Chris Johnson and the Titans' run game, but allowed Jake Locker and the Titan receivers to shred them all day. However, when it came time to win or lose, the Saints defense stepped up and got a sack to end the game.
We can also look at the Week 10 game in Atlanta. In overtime, the Saints defense stopped Michael Turner and the Falcons on a fourth-and-short, which led to the Saints' game-winning field goal. They allowed Turner to rush for more than 100 yards that day and Harry Douglas to run free down the middle, but when it matter most the defense held strong.
We can argue these games should have never gotten to that point for many reasons, but the simple truth is this Saints defense can handle pressure and will provide big plays when necessary.
I have mentioned the Saints special teams a lot in recent weeks, but this unit has played absolutely amazing this season and is a big reason why the Saints have played so well recently.
The Saints are in the top three in almost every possible special teams category. They lead in touchbacks, yard net average on punts, punt return yards and punt returns allowed.
The coverage units have also only allowed one return touchdown all year, and that was in the first week of the season.
Darren Sproles is also one of the most dangerous return men in the league. He has one return touchdown this year but has been very valuable in returning kicks. He is explosive in this part of the game and is third in the league with 26 kick returns that have gone for more than 20 yards.
John Kasay has been great this year filling in for the injured Garrett Hartley. Kasay is 26-of-31 on the year and his only misses have been from 40-plus yards. Kasay is also perfect on PAT's.
The special teams of the Saints is probably the best overall unit in the National Football League and contributes to the reason that the Saints should be Super Bowl XLVI favorites.
Sean Payton is the best offensive coach in the NFL.
He is a genius when it comes to play design and playcalling. The worst part of Drew Brees' 2011 season was when Payton spent time away from the sideline because of his knee injury. Since Payton has been back on the sideline, Brees has been shredding defenses like it was nothing.
Payton's coaching staff is one of the best in the league and they will have the Saints ready for the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Gregg Williams knows how to confuse quarterbacks enough to get pressure and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael works well with Payton and Brees in designing game plans to attack opposing team's flaws.
It was less than two years ago that Payton and the Saints were beating the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, and I am sure Payton and the coaching staff are looking forward to another Super Bowl run this year. This staff is one of the best in the NFL and definitely a reason why the Saints should be Super Bowl favorites in 2011.
The Saints are simply the most complete team in the NFL.
They have one of the best—if not the best—quarterbacks in the league, followed by the National Football League's best offense. The defense has subpar numbers but makes stops when it counts, and the special teams is one of the greatest in the country. Not only do they have a talented roster, but they also have some of the best coaches in the league, all the way from head coach to positional coaches.
The other Super Bowl contenders seem to have many questions and holes in their games.
The New England Patriots have no defense whatsoever and would likely get tormented by a team like New Orleans. The Patriots also have the league's 21st-ranked rushing attack, and that will not be good enough to win a Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens have a great defense, ranking fifth against the pass and second against the run, but their offense seems as if it just leaves something to be desired. They have put up points against good teams this year, but have completely flopped against other teams. Joe Flacco and the Ravens need more from their offense to be legitimate contenders.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are very similar to the Ravens. They have a great defense, but it is not certain the offense can carry the team if it has to. The Ravens and Steelers would likely lose if they got into a shootout with a superior offense.
The only other team that has as good of a shot at the Super Bowl as the Saints is the undefeated Green Bay Packers. They also can say they beat the Saints in their Week 1 matchup. However, I would still favor the Saints over the Packers as Super Bowl favorites because of the Saints' ability to run the ball and the Saints' superior special teams unit.
The Saints have the best shot at Super Bowl XLVI because of their capability to play all facets of the game very well.