What’s the public perception of the New Orleans Saints looking like? These days, it’s tough to find much optimism from around the NFL media landscape in the post-Sean Payton, post-Drew Brees era. Whether folks are doubting Dennis Allen or Jameis Winston (or both of them), there’s a real sense of credulity that the Saints are headed in the right direction.
But that could change once games kick off and speculation quiets down. To keep track of how this will develop, I’m tracking 14 different NFL power rankings as they update each week — keeping up with the placements of the Saints as well as their NFC South rivals, the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers, as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who happen to play in the same division.
Here’s the average positioning for each NFC South team entering Week 1:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3.5
New Orleans Saints: 17.5
Carolina Panthers: 25.7
Atlanta Falcons: 30.5
So the Saints are, ah, a very distant second-place within the division. The Panthers and Falcons are real bottom-feeders, so it’s on New Orleans to close that gap with Tampa Bay. For what it’s worth, only one outlet has the Saints as a top-10 team (CBS Sports with Pete Prisco), while five of them see the black and gold ranked at No. 20 or lower. There are some extremes here, but the consensus suggests we’ve got a mid-tier team right now. Here is what all of these different pundits have to say about New Orleans on the eve of the regular season:
Author: Austin Gayle
“The Trevor Siemian–Jameis Winston–Taysom Hill quarterback trifecta in New Orleans was a catalyst to a disastrous offense in 2021. The best-case scenario for 2022 is that even without now-retired coach Sean Payton, Winston leads a much-improved offense while throwing to a revamped receiving corps that includes a healthy Michael Thomas, first-round pick Chris Olave, and sure-handed slot receiver Jarvis Landry. Defensively, the hope is that everything stays the same, and new head coach Dennis Allen continues to maximize the team’s talent like he did as the defensive coordinator for the last seven seasons.”
Author: Bo Wulf
“The good news: Even after the Chauncey Gardner-Johnson trade, there are high hopes Dennis Allen’s defense can still be one of the best in the league. If Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas remain healthy, maybe the offense can take advantage of a weak division.
The bad news: Defensive success is notoriously volatile year over year, and there are legit questions about the Saints’ ability to protect Winston after Armstead’s departure and Trevor Penning’s slow start. Even worse, if things go south, the Saints don’t own their first-round pick. Few teams enter 2022 with such a wide variance of possible outcomes, from an NFC South championship to a one-and-done year for Allen and the crew.
Nugget to remember: The offensive line is an extra concern because of Winston’s playing style. No quarterback took at least three seconds to throw more often than Winston last season, per TruMedia.”
Author: Dan Hanzus
“Can the offense be trusted? The Saints will enter Week 1 against the Falcons with a deep and talented defense that should give opponents fits all season if it can stay healthy. The offense comes with legit upside, as well, but that remains much more of a projection. The blocking front took a hit with the loss of stalwart left tackle Terron Armstead in free agency, and the attack is no longer led by its visionary, Sean Payton. Then there’s the uncertainty around Jameis Winston, a famously unpredictable quarterback who also happens to be returning from ACL surgery. If Winston gets protected and can avoid the backbreaking turnovers, he should be able to put points on the board with playmakers like Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and promising rookie Chris Olave in tow.”
Bleeding Green Nation
Author: Brandon Lee Gowton
“The Saints are one of the most overrated teams in the league. I mean, Peter King has them finishing as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. How? Why is everyone ignoring that Jameis Winston has largely been a turnover machine in his career? Why is everyone ignoring that defensive performance isn’t as sticky on a year-to-year basis? It’s bizarre. Losing Sean Payton is going to have a bigger impact than people seem to realize.”
Author: Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton and Brent Sobleski
“The New Orleans Saints are one of the more interesting teams in the NFL entering the 2022 season.
Offensively, the team should be significantly improved relative to last year. Jameis Winston, by all accounts, has recovered fully from the ACL tear that ended his 2021 season. The addition of veteran Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave and the return of a healthy Michael Thomas offers Winston an exponentially better wideout corps than he had last season.
And if Alvin Kamara avoids discipline from his offseason battery arrest, the Saints could field a formidable offense.
Defensively, the Saints were seventh last year in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Whether it’s Cameron Jordan up front, Demario Davis at linebacker or newcomer Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, the Saints have talent at all three levels on that side of the ball.
Add it all together, and Sobleski sees a team that could give the Buccaneers trouble in the NFC South—if things fall into place.
“An eclectic group of talented individuals is coming together in New Orleans with the potential to do big things if everything properly gels. First, Dennis Allen takes over for the retired Sean Payton, though the transition should go relatively smoothly since Allen previously served as the defensive coordinator.
“Jameis Winston must build upon his impressive start to the 2021 campaign before suffering a torn ACL. Michael Thomas is back after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. Jarvis Landry and first-round rookie Chris Olave are now added to the mix.
“On the other side of the ball, the secondary has been rebuilt with two brand new starting safeties in Mathieu and Marcus Maye. On paper, this group looks great. But games aren’t played on paper. The Saints must prove they’re worthy of a higher ranking.”
Author: Frank Schwab
“The Saints’ trade of versatile defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles was surprising. Gardner-Johnson could become a free agent next offseason, but he could have helped this season and the Saints didn’t get much back (a 2023 fifth-round pick, the lowest of the Eagles’ two 2024 sixth-rounders and a 2025 seventh-round pick). Gardner-Johnson wanted a new deal but it’s not like he’d sit out all season. An odd move.”
Pro Football Focus
Author: Sam Monson
“So much of the Saints’ success over the last 15 years was built on Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s shoulders, neither of whom are now in the building. However, the roster is still in pretty good shape. Jameis Winston is a real unknown factor. One of the most volatile quarterbacks in the league, Winston was playing a much more controlled brand of football last year before getting hurt, posting the lowest turnover-worthy play rate of his career while still making frequent big-time throws.”
Author: Matt Bowen
“Bold prediction for 2022: The Saints will win the NFC South.
The Saints have the ability to push the ball down the field with a healthy Jameis Winston at quarterback. But this is really about new coach Dennis Allen’s defense. That unit can create disruption, take the ball away and slow down the best quarterbacks in the league, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Tom Brady, who has yet to beat the Saints in four regular-season games over the past two years.”
Author: Vinnie Iyer
“The Saints might be caught in an identity crisis as the move on without Sean Payton. Their post-Drew Brees success has been predicated much on the running game and defense, the latter being promoted Dennis Allen’s purview. They are trying to open up things and let loose in the passing game with James Winston, with rookie Chris Olave being a sizable. Well behind the Bucs, the Saints look for now to be a little below the muddled middle.”
Author: MMQB Staff
“Points in poll: 126
Highest-place vote: 14 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 20 (1 vote)
Week 1 opponent: at Falcons
The Saints return plenty of talent, but obviously there are questions as they head into Year 1 without Sean Payton and Year 2 without Drew Brees.”
NBC Sports Chicago
Author: Josh Shrock
“Last time we saw Dennis Allen coach an NFL team, he was driving the Raiders into the ground. Some guys are just meant to be coordinators.”
Author: Pete Prisco
“The defense will carry this team to the postseason. It will be a nasty group. They just have to hope Jameis Winston doesn’t turn it over.”
Pro Football Talk
Author: Mike Florio
“The departure of Sean Payton is being met with a surprising degree of nonchalance. It’s a huge void, and it’s still not clear whether anyone still on the coaching staff will be able to fill it.”