Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at the New Orleans Saints season prediction.
Though there were some bright spots for the Saints in 2021, it was lowlighted by injuries and a disappointing final year of long-time head coach Sean Payton’s career. There are high hopes moving forward that they’ll be able to compete in the NFC even without the caliber of quarterback that some foes in the conference have.
New Orleans Saints 2021 season in review
- 2021 record: 9-8
- 2nd in NFC South
- Didn’t Qualify for Playoffs
In year one without Drew Brees, fans and analysts were rightfully skeptical of how things would go with Jameis Winston under center full-time for New Orleans. Brees was the team’s leading passer for 15 years, leading the Saints to the playoffs in nine of those years and winning a Super Bown in the 2009 season. Moving on from a Hall of Fame quarterback is uncomfortable, and trying to stay competitive in the midst of it is even trickier. Winston had seen just minimal playing time the year before while Brees was injured since New Orleans experimented with Taysom Hill at quarterback instead.
Winston was impressive as the full-time starter and far away from the notorious 30-and-30 season (30+ TDs, 30+ INTs) he had in 2019. Winston threw 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, throwing for 7.3 yards per passing attempt with a QBR of 64.4. Winston was 5-2 before going down in week 8 with a torn ACL leaving things in the incapable hands of Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill, and Ian Book.
Hill, to his credit, pushed the team to four wins in the final five weeks of the season to push for the postseason, but frequently looks uncomfortable as a starting QB and functions much better as an occasional utility piece to catch defenses off guard. This year he’s listed as a tight end, but we’re sure to see him under center once in a while or used in trick play gimmicks.
All in all Winston’s injury felt like the moment the Saints season died in 2021.
New Orleans Saints NFL Draft class 2022
- Rd 1: Chris Olave, WR/Ohio State
- Rd 1: Trevor Penning, OT/Northern Iowa
- Rd 2: Alontae Taylor, CB/Tennessee
- Rd 5: D’Marco Jackson, LB/Appalachian State
This year’s draft class has drummed up lots of excitement for Saints fans, particularly the first-rounders. Chris Olave looks to be another receiver in a long line of explosive Saints pass-catchers, and Trevor Penning made headlines during training camp for his gritty attitude and arguably way-too-serious approach to practice against his own teammates. He got kicked out of practice for fighting with a teammate.
Penning went out with injury in the preseason and is unfortunately out until November, but Olave is going to be something special. He’ll get some targets when teams put their best defensive backs on Michael Thomas or Jarvis Landry.
Taylor and Jackson don’t have the same level of expectations and look to be serviceable plug-ins to the back half of the defense.
Previewing New Orleans Saints offense for 2022 season
- Key offseason additions
- Jarvis Landry, WR
- Chris Olave, WR
- Biggest X-Factor: Michael Thomas
- Squeakiest Wheel: Andrus Peat
Jameis Winston may not be a top-tier NFL quarterback, but the weapons around him should help disguise him as one. The receiving core is headlined by the return of Michael Thomas, the addition of Jarvis Landry, and the debut of Chris Olave. Behind them, the Saints roster Marquez Callaway (15.2 yards per reception in 2021), Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harty. Adam Trautman and Taysom Hill may be good for a few receptions here and there as well.
The success of the receiving group, and the offense, will likely hinge in large part on Michael Thomas. After missing all of last season with an ankle injury, it remains to be seen if he can be as explosive as he was previously. Thomas has suffered a few minor injuries already in the preseason as he’s gotten back in game shape but looks to be ready for Week 1. Hopefully, his body is back up to speed and he’s ready to go. Thomas being on the field not only adds another threat for Winston, but it also opens up opportunities for other receivers when teams have to prioritize their best defenders on Thomas.
The Saints return Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II. The dual threat in the backfield has made for some of the most threatening Saints offenses in recent history, and the duo splitting carries will extend durability and give the Saints an easily-established run game all season long.
The squeakiest wheel that Saints fans need to watch is left guard Andrus Peat. He struggled to stay on the field last year appearing in just 6 games, and his Pro Football Reference Approximate Value dropped to a career-low of 2. He allowed three sacks last season even though he only appeared in six games.
Overall, the Saints offense should hum along this year.
Previewing New Orleans Saints defense for 2022 season
- Key offseason additions
- Tyrann Mathieu, S
- Marcus Maye, S
- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE
- Bradley Roby, CB
- Biggest X-Factor: Tyrann Mathieu
- Squeakiest Wheel: Bradley Roby
As good as the offense is, the defense might be just as good if not better. The Saints return a lot of their key defensive weapons and added some net positives. Tyrann Mathieu was the biggest get of the offseason, and he finds himself as the team’s X-Factor.
Mathieu is a Louisiana native, so on one hand you’d expect him to thrive in his home environment. Previously in his career, it was speculated that the distance from his home state and some of the distractions that come with it helped him stay focused and molded him into the star defensive player he is today, but it’s unclear how fair or unfair those speculative statements were. Mathieu also mysteriously missed a chunk of training camp this year. Assumptions ran rampant regarding if he would simply retire at the time, but it all ended up being a whole lot of nothing.
There’s not much to say about the Saints defense other than they’re straight-up good. The Saints tallied 18 interceptions last year and were third in the league in interception yardage. The 20 touchdowns they allowed was the third-least in the league.
New Orleans returned most of their defense, with the notable exception of C.J. Gardner Johnson who was traded to the Eagles for a mid-round draft pick just before the 53-man roster deadline. Gardner-Johnson and the Saints reportedly couldn’t come to a consensus on a contract extension, and he distanced himself from the team. It’s a loss, to be sure, but the Saints have one of the deepest defenses in the league. The Saints are worse off without him but the loss is not critical.
Marcus Maye was also recently arrested for aggravated assault with a weapon, and also has a court date this fall for a DUI. Depending on how that shakes out, it could put the defense on shakier ground.
That brings us to the squeakiest wheel, Bradley Roby. This label is perhaps unfair, but Roby is someone to watch since he’ll have to step up in the absence of Gardner-Johnson.
Nick Underhill wrote an article detailing the Saints’ options to backfill Gardner-Johnson’s role (subscription required) and he focused heavily on Roby. He pointed out that Roby has some experience in the slot and could be used in that position situationally. Underhill also astutely noted that Roby has had more success playing in the slot when he has played there consistently, so the Saints would be wise to make that a regular occurrence for him.
Like the offense, there are few holes in the defense. The team returns its core players and culture, and while it loses some locker room fire in Gardner-Johnson, has the pieces it needs to backfill his role serviceably.
New Orleans Saints coaching staff overview
- Head Coach: Dennis Allen
- Off. Coordinator: Pete Carmichael
- Def. Coordinator: Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard
The coaching staff looks different but similar. Sean Payton, the long-time leader, is gone, and former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been promoted.
There’s not a ton to note here. Allen is in a new role, but has been preparing in the background, learning from Payton, and has the trust of Mickey Loomis. Pete Carmichael remains the offensive coordinator and Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard will tag-team defensive coordinator duties. They’re not strangers either, as the pair served as defensive assistants last season and were college teammates.
We’ll see if there are any snafus with play-calling or anything like that, but for the most part the Saints coaching staff remains the same.
New Orleans Saints Awards Watch
Jameis Winston, MVP
Jameis Winston would be a huge surprise as the 2022 MVP, but he’s the most realistic option on the roster. Winston flashed potential to be a significant offense-runner last year, only to have his impressive campaign stunted prematurely by injury.
If Winston played a full 17 games on the same pace as his seven games in 2022 he would have put up this stat line:
- 230 completions
- 2,841 yards
- 34 touchdowns (2 fewer than Josh Allen)
- 7 interceptions (fewer than Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, and Matthew Stafford)
Assuming Winston can find his groove in the Saints offense yet again and stay healthy, he has a shot at really shocking people with what he can do. He’ll need to get his completions and yards up in order to actually compete for MVP, but if he can produce wins and lead New Orleans to a division title with a similar level of play as last year, he may be surprisingly hard to argue against.
Chris Olave, Offensive Rookie of the Year
The Saints packaged two picks to move up from No. 16 to No. 11 and grab receive Chris Olave out of Ohio State. The Saints obsession with Buckeyes continues, and Olave looks primed for success in a receiver group that will bring back another former Buckeye in Michael Thomas after he missed the entirety of the 2021 season with an injury.
The Saints receiver group has the potential to drive defenses crazy and have them flummoxed with who to prioritize. As a rookie, Olave may have the best odds to get opposing defense’s worst defensive backs placed on him while they worry about the likes of Thomas and Landry. If he can take advantage of that, it’ll mean huge yardage.
Two receivers (Drake London, Garrett Wilson) were taken before Olave, and that could put a chip on his back to show the Falcons and Jets why they were wrong.
Biggest game on New Orleans Saints schedule
The Saints travel to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on December 5 for Monday Night Football. This will be the second matchup against Brady and the Bucs, and at this point the two teams project to be battling it out for the division title with just five games left.
For the Saints, they’re going to be coming off a tough run, facing the Rams and Niners in the games directly preceding.
Going into this season, Tom Brady has yet to beat the Saints in the regular season as a member of the Bucs.
With the lights bright and the entire focus on this game on Monday night, there’s no telling this will be the game of the season with the year winding down.
New Orleans Saints season prediction: Best case scenario
If all goes right this season, the Saints will win an NFC Championship. Of course, they’d hope to win the Super Bowl, but after years of getting so close to being back in the big game, just getting there again would be a huge accomplishment for the team, especially with a B-tier quarterback under center.
To get there, the Saints need to stay as injury-free as possible, especially with rookie Trevor Penning already possibly out for the season. Particularly, Jameis Winston needs to exemplify more durability than he did last season and finish every game.
The coaching staff will need to run a clean first year under Dennis Allen and ensure that anything that goes wrong is due to execution, not strategy design and implementation.
New Orleans Saints season prediction: Worst-case scenario
The worst-case scenario for the Saints is missing the playoffs and losing the NFC South. Under the new extended playoff format, missing out would be a huge disappointment for the Saints, but failing to capture the division title would be even more painful.
The Saints and Bucs will duel it out for the title and as mentioned earlier, their late-season matchup is going to be the game of the year for both teams, but the Saints are a better all-around team. Tampa Bay does have Tom Brady, though, and so it’s not a sure thing for New Orleans. They need to win both games against the Bucs, anything less will put their fate in the hands of Tampa Tom, not the way you want to positon yourselves.
Unproven players like rookie Chris Olave may have a lot to do with this outcome, as will injuries. Jameis Winston is not an A-Tier QB, but he is good enough that if the Saints lose him, they’re at risk of losing their playoff hopes. Their backup quarterback situation improved when the team acquired Andy Dalton, but Dalton never seeing the field in meaningful situations this year is the ideal outcome.
After the mysterious training camp disappearance, you have to be somewhat timid as a fan for Tyrann Mathieu’s first season in his home state. Is something up there that we don’t know about? How focused is he going into this year?
All indications publicly from the team and Mathieu are positive, so for now this is a non-issue. Losing C.J. Garner-Johnson was tenable, but if the Saints are without him and Mathieu, suddenly we’re looking at a problem.
New Orleans Saints season prediction for 2022
- 10-7 record
- 2nd place in NFC South
- Playoff Prediction: Loss in NFC Divisional Round
10-7 feels reasonable for the Saints, as does a second-place finish in the NFC South with Tom Brady in the division. The Saints, though, have game-planned masterfully for the Bucs the last two years, and now Brady is more aged.
Looking at the Saints on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to justify a result less than making it to the NFC Championship. It’s a capable team top to bottom, with depth all over. That said, there’s reason to question the durability of meaningful players, and for that reason, the Saints will lose in the divisional round this year.