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Saints will have good season, but no rings

By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 7, 2001
The National Football League kicks off it's season Sunday.
On Wednesday night, following the final segment of HBO's indepth look at preseason life of the Baltimore Ravens, HBO commentators Nick Buoniconti and Jerry Glanville both predicted the New Orleans Saints would play in the Super Bowl.
I've been a Saints fan since I was old enough to know what the Saints were, and have endured the 30-plus years of suffering of losing season after losing season. Last year brought great joy as the Saints finally ended their long franchise playoff curse by beating the Rams 31-28.
No way
As much I would love to see the Saints playing in the Super Bowl and in their own Superdome, I don't see it happening this year.
My guess here is another 10-6 season and a second place NFC West Division finish behind the Rams. Look for another first round playoff win to be followed by a second round playoff loss.
My crystal ball for the rest of the NFL for 2001 shows:
AFC East: 1. Indianapolis, 2. Miami, 3. New York Jets, 4. New England, 5. Buffalo. An older, wiser Peyton Manning and his big guns lead the Colts to a divisional crown. They might also break Jim Mora's playoff curse. Miami could be better but look for Buffalo to be bad. They got rid of the wrong quarterback.
AFC Central: 1. Tennessee, 2. Baltimore, 3. Pittsburgh, 4. Cleveland, 5. Jacksonville, 6. Cincinnati. The loss of Jamaal Lewis is going to hurt the Ravens even with Elvin Grbac now running the offense. Lewis was a power-back who punished defenses and that allowed the Ravens own defense to stay fresh and dominating.
Tennessee still has their hammer in Eddie George and that is the difference between the two clubs. The Browns may be a stretch at No. 4 but the salary cap has disintergrated the Jaguars while the Bengals are still the Bengals.
AFC West: 1. Denver, 2. Oakland, 3. Kansas City, 4. Seattle, 5. San Diego. This is the best division in the AFC. I personally saw the Broncos run over the Saints last year in New Orleans. Their defense wasn't very good but that was the area that Mike Shannahan addressed in the off-season, plus they will have a healthy Brian Griese directing the offense.
The Raiders' chance at the Super Bowl was last year. Even then, they were 0-2 against the Broncos. San Diego may now be the best fifth-place team in the league.
NFC East: 1. Philadelphia, 2. New York Giants, 3. Washington, 4. Arizona, 5. Dallas.
Easily the worst division in the NFL. Yeah, the Giants did make the Super Bowl but that's the team I think the Saints will beat this year in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles are a rising team. The Redskins are unsettled at quarterback while the Cowboys will be just plain bad.
NFC Central: 1. Green Bay, 2. Tampa Bay, 3. Minnesota, 4. Detroit, 5. Chicago. A healthy Brett Favre leads the Pack back on top of the pack. Tampa Bay may be better behind Brad Johnson but this was a team that couldn't beat Philadelphia last year in the playoffs.
NFC West: 1. St. Louis, 2. New Orleans, 3. San Francisco, 4. Atlanta, 5. Carolina. The Rams have gotten a lot stronger on defense and that was where the Saints took advantage of them last year.
Final word
AFC Playoffs: Raiders beat the Dolphins while the Broncos end the Ravens reign in Denver. Tennessee beats the Raiders while the Colts kick the Broncos. The Titans then deny Peyton a chance to come home for the Super Bowl.
NFC Playoffs: Saints beat the Giants in New Orleans in the 4 vs. 5 game. Tampa Bay freezes up again in Green Bay. The Saints fall to the Rams while the Eagles edge the Packers in the NFC semifinals. The Rams then bury the Eagles to head back to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl: This time the Titans are not a yard short and beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

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