Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes the football against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Power Rankings countdown: 5. New Orleans Saints

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2014 NFL Power Rankings Countdown

5.  New Orleans Saints (NFC South)

2013 Record:  11-5

Head coach:  Sean Payton – Payton returned as the Saints head coach last season after being suspended in 2012 for the Bountygate scandal.  And he promptly led the Saints back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record and then losing in the divisional round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.  And now Payton has the Saints looking to recapture the NFC South title and possibly make it to another Super Bowl.

Best offensive player:  Drew Brees, quarterback – Jimmy Graham is a great player, but Drew Brees is still the straw that stirs the drink for the Saints offense.  With Payton back calling the plays, Brees and the Saints passing game proved much more effective over their 2012 season without him.  And now in his 14th season, Brees shows no signs of slowing down, and the Saints offense could get even better this season.   NFL Power Rankings

Best defensive player:  Cameron Jordan, defensive end – Jordan has gotten better in each of his three seasons with the Saints, and he led the team in sacks with 12.5 in 2013 and also earned a selection to the pro bowl.  It’s rare to see a defensive end in a 3-4 defense amass so many sacks, but that’s a testament to Jordan’s versatility and pass rushing skills that he could pull that off.  And he may be just scratching to surface to how good he can become.

Rising Star:  Kenny Stills, wide receiver – Stills emerged in his rookie season with the Saints as their top deep threat at wide receiver.  He only had 32 receptions, but averaged an impressive 20 yards per catch for 641 yards and 5 TD’s.  With more experience under his belt and Drew Brees throwing the ball to him, Stills should have an even bigger season in 2014.

Best new addition:  Jairus Byrd, free safety – The Saints lost a quality safety in Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, but they still managed to upgrade the free safety position by signing one of the top safeties in the league in Jairus Byrd.  Byrd should combine with second year man Kenny Vaccaro to give the Saints one of the top tandems at safety in the NFL..       NFL Power Rankings

Biggest offseason loss: Darren Sproles, running back – Sproles is one of the most versatile and dangerous running backs in the NFL.  He’s a great change of pace back and an outstanding receiver out of the backfield.  He’s also a good kick returner and contributed to the Saints offense in a variety of ways since he joined the team.  But now that he’s gone the Saints will be hard pressed to replace what he brought to the table.

Biggest strength:  The Saints biggest strength is their passing attack. With Sean Payton calling the plays and Drew Brees at quarterback, the Saints will have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL, and they are also certain to put a lot of points on the board as well.          NFL Power Rankings

Biggest weakness:  The Saints biggest weakness is their running game. The Saints had one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL last season, but this is offset by their outstanding passing attack.  However, the Saints will need to find a way to establish a better rushing attack if they are to ascend to become NFC champions.  Mark Ingram will play a bigger role this season, and they will need him to finally come through with a good season.

32. Houston Texans

31. Cleveland Browns

30.  Minnesota Vikings

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

28.  Oakland Raiders

27.  Washington Redskins

26.  Atlanta Falcons

25.  Buffalo Bills

24.  Tennessee Titans

23.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers

22.  Detroit Lions

21.  Miami Dolphins

20.  St. Louis Rams

19.  New York Jets

18.  Dallas Cowboys

17.  New York Giants

16.  Pittsburgh Steelers

15.  Philadelphia Eagles

14.  Chicago Bears

13.  Baltimore Ravens

12.  Cincinnati Bengals

11.  Arizona Cardinals

10.  Carolina Panthers

9.  Green Bay Packers

8.  Kansas City Chiefs

7.  San Diego Chargers

6.  Indianapolis Colts

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Tags: 2014 NFL Power Rankings Drew Brees Jimmy Graham NFL Power Rankings Washington Redskins

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