Since the breaking news about the Saints and their "mentality" under Gregg Williams, we as fans have had a ton of emotions on the subject. Initially lots of us thought about the Harper hit on 89, all the extra curricular activities after plays, and the disdain already within us for a Division Rival.
Weeks now removed from the initial thoughts and then the second round when it came out that Newton was a target, I have started to think about how this will effect the game on the field going into next year. Division foes in the NFC South will have to deal with these ramifications at least twice next year and these thoughts are what I want to share.
First off, I do not believe that the NFL officials are near as bad as NBA refs as far as vengeance goes. However, each of the Saints games next year are going to be put under a microscope. The refs are going to most likely be "advised" to look for Saints dirty plays and also retaliation from other teams (especially if the opponent had a player with a bounty on them). That said, refs are going to be quicker to throw flags on any borderline calls during these games both ways.
With what I envision as a more aggressive Panther defense next year with Coach Rivera and staff able to implement a full defense this year with a full off season. Aggressive defense leads to more bang bang plays which leads to more "judgement" calls by officials. This can hurt any Saints opponents who plan on playing this hard hitting style of football with the retaliation thought in the back of the mind of Officials. Star QB's already get the benefit of the doubt with borderline hits (see any Colts or Pats games the past decade), add in the official expecting to see this and they will see it whether it was a penalty or not. Anytime you give Brees an extra set of downs and 15 yards it is not going to end well for your defense.
PLAYER SAFETY SUSPENSIONS
Ask James Harrison just how added attention to the play during the game can effect a player's bank account. Fines and suspensions are how the NFL attempts to regulate player safety. Anyone playing the Saints will by association incur the fine-tooth comb the Saints players will be receiving from the league office after the story of the off season. Much like with James Harrison in Pittsburgh, the sense of what is and what isn't dirty becomes blurred by past transgressions and a heavier than normal hand can become the norm when a game reviewer begins to look for these types of player. The Saints remaining front office will file a grievance for every borderline hit that opposing teams have against them in order to try to show that they aren't the only ones playing the Gregg Williams style of defense and try to remove some of the stigma from it, adding to the attention Saints games will already garner next year. God forbid anyone hits Brees' ACL!
The one semi-positive that will come from this is the national attention all Saints games will attract. This is a double edge sword. Like I said above, teams like Carolina will be looked at to see if they are going to go #89 vs. Malcolm Jenkins after a Roman Harper cheap shot in the end zone on the Saints. For these games this will be a story line. The targets of these bounties will be asked by every NFL journalist that can track them down about it endlessly. This isn't the positive side. The positive will be when the Cam Newton is able to show what Panther fans have already seen in the last year. Cam will crush the questions as he did in a statement made while on break filming a Gatorade commercial (here). In addition Saints games will be even more prevalent on highlight shows allowing for more people to be exposed to the up-and-coming Panthers and other small market teams even with the Saints being the focus.
This is what is now what I am focused on. So, what do others think will be the effects on the field caused by this situation?