Bountygate season about to kick offThis offseason, the predictions came pouring in. And so did the bad news for the New Orleans Saints.
Bountygate struck. Suspensions followed. Sean Payton? See you in February 2013.
Welcome, Who Dat Nation, to the season of “us against the world.”
This summer, as training camp kicked off, interim head coach Joe Vitt scoffed at the notion that the Saints will use the bounty penalties as fuel for the 2012 season.
I don’t buy it one bit.
Remember, Sean Payton built this organization. And Payton is the ultimate scorekeeper. He remembers every slight, every perceived injustice. Payton lives every nanosecond with a chip on his shoulder, and in his absence, so will his football team.
Interim-interim coach Aaron Kromer, who leads the Saints in the opener against the Washington Redskins, said it best when he was named to his current role. Said Kromer, “There’s something great about doing something when no one thinks you can.”
Ultimately, the Saints’ 2012 season comes down to a few items.
No. 1 is a healthy Drew Brees. This goes without saying. Brees is a Hall of Fame quarterback. With him healthy, the Saints pocket seven to eight wins by just getting on the field. Forget the spotty play of the offense in the preseason. It is irrelevant.
Injuries at key spots are an issue, too. Because of some losses in free agency and not having a first- and second-round pick (the second-rounder forfeited in Bountygate), the Saints will not be as deep as they were in the past.
Remember, Robert Meach­em, who signed for big money in the offseason with San Diego, was your fourth-best wide receiver. In San Diego, they paid him like a No. 1 receiver and expect that type of production. Cornerback Tracy Porter also signed with Denver.
The Saints simply didn’t have the salary cap space to retain Porter, Meachem and guard Carl Nicks.
And, then there’s luck. Sometimes, it just isn’t your year, even with the best team. Ask the 2011 Saints.
Meantime, with all of the offseason issues the Saints battled, the fashionable pick in the NFC South is the Atlanta Falcons. For me, it is a curious pick. How can so much faith be shown to a head coach and quarterback who have yet to win a playoff game?
Remember, this is the same Atlanta team that failed to score a touchdown in a first-round playoff exit against the New York Giants. Last November, in a 49-24 rout of the Giants, Brees threw four touchdown passes and ran for another. The Saints had their way with New York.
The Saints are plenty good enough. Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will learn that Sunday on the turf of the Superdome.
This summer, as I interviewed a high school coach, he looked me in the eye and said, “One team, one dream.”
And, that dream is to have Roger (Goodell) handing the trophy to Tom (Benson).
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at .