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New Orleans Saints season preview: Division title hope


Around The NFL's season preview wraps up in the NFC South. Our podcast NFC preview is right here.

Change we can believe in


On offense, the Saints have grown more dynamic at the receiver position with the addition of electric rookie pass-catcher Brandin Cooks. He'll boost the air attack while "Making the Leap" candidate Khiry Robinson is set for a bigger role in the backfield. We also believe in the "change" we've seen from fourth-year back Mark Ingram. Cast off in fantasy circles as a draft bust, Ingram has resembled a new being in August, rumbling for 7.1 yards on 21 preseason carries.

On defense, coordinator Rob Ryan is "ready to get weird" with a safety group headlined by a healthy Kenny Vaccaro and top-flight free-agent pickup Jairus Byrd. We won't blink when this twosome is whispered about as the equal of Seattle's Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

Biggest concern


Around The NFL's Chris Wesseling and I have picked the Saints to win the Super Bowl, partly because no crippling weakness exists.

Depth on defense is an issue at cornerback. The pass rush would crumble if the injury bug bites Cameron Jordan or Junior Galette. New Orleans, though, can carve out a winning record in almost every possible scenario save for the loss of quarterback Drew Brees. The most pressing question has more to do with January: If they don't earn home-field advantage, do the Saints have the talent to take their show on the road and win a playoff game in Green Bay or Seattle?

Notable Madden ratings

Training camp surprise


Let's call it a tie between Cooks and Ingram: The rookie wideout has been a neverending highlight-reel of jaw-dropping plays all summer. We picked him to lead all first-year pass-catchers in yardage this season, but we weren't expecting Cooks to dominate matchups with such zeal. He's an instant headache for the rest of the NFC South.

The Saints spoke loudly when they refused to pick up Ingram's fifth-year option, but he's emerged this summer as the team's most powerful and nastiest runner. Fantasy values be damned! What we're seeing on the field suggests a bust-out season from a guy most wrote off two autumns ago.

What we'll be saying in February


Can the Saints can win back-to-back Super Bowls despite Rob Ryan taking over as head coach of the Buffalo Bills?

Around The NFL's predicted finish: First place in NFC South, No. 3 in Around The NFL's Power Index.

The "Around The NFL Podcast" reviews all of the action from Week 3 of the preseason. Get it while it's hot!

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