The NFL is planning further changes to the kickoff, hoping to reduce the number of high-speed collisions that happen on the play.
A proposed new rule that owners will vote on next week will make several changes to the kickoff. The key takeaways are:
1. The kicking team must line up within one yard of the line where the ball is kicked (typically the 35-yard line), and must have five players on each side of the kicker. That changes the rule that allowed players to line up five yards behind the spot where the ball is kicked to get a running start. Now the kicker will be able to get a running start, but everyone else will get one step at best.
6. The ball will be dead if it touches the ground in the end zone. In the past the returner could pick up the ball off the ground in the end zone and run it out, but now it would be a touchback immediately if it touches the ground in the end zone.
These rules are likely to result in fewer high-speed collisions on kickoffs and, the NFL hopes, fewer concussions.
Here’s breaking down the Saints’ entire schedule and how their 2018 games set up Drew Brees & Co. for a Super Bowl push.
Toughest tests: The Saints were able to go 7-1 at home last year on their way to an 11-5 overall mark. It will be tough to duplicate that Superdome success with the Falcons, Panthers, Rams, Eagles and Steelers bringing their best to New Orleans. The good news: It would be a lot harder to face those teams outside of the Big Easy.
Biggest breaks: Outside of the division games and the Vikings matchup, the Saints have a favorable away slate and should finish better than .500 on the road. With Minnesota and Dallas on the schedule, that leaves only three games in which there might be weather concerns. Then again, with New Orleans’ improved running game and defense, it’s an undaunted team built for all seasons.