By: Addison Willmon
Opinion — Mark Ingram, the starting running back for the New Orleans Saints in 2017, has been suspended from the first four games of the 2018 NFL season according to ESPN.com. What does this mean for the Saints this upcoming season?
The Saints have, without a doubt, one of the better, more consistent and explosive offenses in the NFL. A large part of their success last year was due to the “one-two punch” that came from Ingram and 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Alvin Kamara. Without Ingram, however, it appears the playoffs may be significantly harder to reach.
Let’s examine their first four opponents:
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – It’s difficult to imagine the Buccaneers, who ranked last in average passing yards allowed in 2017, will be able to slow down the Saints’ offense.
2) Cleveland Browns – The Browns are a dark horse this year. With their skill positions completely revamped, an elite pass rusher in Myles Garret, and the young Denzel Ward beginning his career, the Browns have a modest chance to actually outscore the Saints in week 2 this year.
3) Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are a top-eight—maybe even top-six team this year. Without Ingram, the Saints are the definite underdog in this matchup.
4) New York Giants – The best players on the Giants’ offense are healthy again. If Saquon Barkley can perform half as well as most people expect him to, and if Eli Manning plays well, this is no offense to scoff at. You can expect a shootout that may go either way in week 4.
Worst case scenario: The Saints lose three out of their first four games.
This might mean disaster. They are playing a division champion team schedule. The Vikings, Rams, Eagles, Cowboys, and Steelers all land on the Saints’ schedule this year. And don’t forget two of their three NFC South division rivals also made the playoffs. With that kind of road ahead of them, they could easily miss the playoffs.
Now, let’s look at why this will likely not be the case.
To say Mark Ingram carried the team last year would be false. Without him, there is still a future Hall of Fame QB in Drew Brees, an incredible young RB in Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas who holds the record for most catches in a player’s first two seasons. Not to mention, Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore on defense. New Orleans is a powerful team, and while their running game might suffer compared to last year, the ability to make plays is still there.
Frankly, a 3-1 record out of the gate is just as likely as a 1-3 record. It is worth betting that the Saints will make the playoffs in 2018.