NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - One year ago, both the Saints and the Raiders finished their seasons at 7 and 9. The records were exact. But the perceptions they created that linger for both teams are greatly dissimilar.
For the raiders it was a big step forward under first-year coach Jack Delrio, who more than doubled his predecessors' total in 2014. After 13 straight non-playoff seasons, the Raiders and their long-suffering fans anticipate a "return to relevance" for this once-proud franchise.
For the Saints, their third 7 and 9 season in the last four was looked upon as the mark of a descending football team, not an ascending one. With their last trip to the playoffs in 2013, the Saints are struggling to "remain relevant" in the NFC playoff picture.
The Raiders boast three of the game's most promising young veterans in third-year quarterback Derek Carr, third-year edge rusher Khalil Mack, and second- year wide receiver Amari Cooper. They have three new starters on defense with the addition of unrestricted free agents Bruce Irvin at outside linebacker, Sean Smith at cornerback and Reggie Nelson at free safety.
The Raiders say they're intent on restoring the "bully mentality" of old, when the team was respected - even feared. It will be up to the Saints on Sunday to respond to that challenge.
They hope to do so with essentially three new starters who have not put the uniform on for them this summer in guard Jahri Evans, defensive end Paul Kruger and kicker Wil Lutz. And while that might be a lot to ask, the Saints have a healthy and happy drew brees under center.
And as we've seen for 10 seasons, that can overcome a lot of other perceived concerns.