NFL Research says Saints have the second-easiest projected strength of schedule

Let’s start with the good news. Per the NFL Media Research Department, the New Orleans Saints are going into the 2023 season with the second-easiest strength of schedule around the league — their opponents having combined for a 122-164-3 record last year. There’s no excuses for Dennis Allen and Derek Carr to not find success this season.

Now the bad news. All four NFC South teams rank in the ten easiest strength of schedule projections, with the Atlanta Falcons slotting in ahead of the Saints to face the weakest lineup in the entire league. The Carolina Panthers are just a little behind with the sixth-weakest slate of opponents. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers round out the group with the eleventh-easiest schedule, based off of last year’s standings.

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It goes to show that all four of the teams in the division are in a rough spot. The Panthers are rebuilding around rookie quarterback Bryce Young and a brand-new coaching staff. The Falcons have been very active in the free agent market this year and they’ve surrounded second-year passer Desmond Ridder with a lot of weapons, but they still need to prove their investments were worth the price (and that Ridder can get this team where it wants to go). And the Buccaneers are pretty clearly going into the tank while absorbing some massive dead money charges, with only Baker Mayfield as a viable option under center.

There’s a very real scenario where the Saints meet their potential and run away with the division title. That has to be the expectation this year. But many of the issues that plagued them in 2022 could be problems again in 2023. Injuries devastated the depth chart. Allen is still their head coach after wilting in critical moments. Pete Carmichael Jr. is still the offensive play caller after his performance inspired little confidence. The coaching staff has as much work to do in building credibility with fans as the players on the roster.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire