The Saints were the strongest team in the mighty NFC South last season. For New Orleans to build on that playoff run, it will need to navigate through one of the NFL’s strongest schedules in 2018.
The combined 2017 record of New Orleans’ opponents, thanks in part to having two other playoff teams in its division, is 137-119. That’s tied with Detroit for the second toughest in the league.
Bottom line: Brees was re-signed and got some help in the passing game, and the defense got better in the back seven. Those moves came before the draft, from which both sides of the ball will be boosted even more. Despite the degree of difficulty in their schedule, the Saints are on par talent-wise with the heavyweights they will be playing. Brees and coach Sean Payton are back in business as threats to lead New Orleans to its first NFC title in nine years. Record prediction: 12-4
2. At least eight of the 11 players on the receiving team must line up within 15 yards of their restraining line, which would typically mean between the kicking team’s 45-yard line and the receiving team’s 40-yard line.
3. At least two players on the kickoff team must be lined up outside the numbers, and two players between the numbers and the hashmark.
4. Until the ball is touched or hits the ground, pl
ayers on the receiving team can’t cross the restraining line (typically the 45), or initiate a block within 15 yards of the line where the ball is kicked.
5. Wedge blocks will be eliminated. Past rule changes have limited wedge blocks to two players, but now even the two-man wedge will be banned.