2021 Record: 9-8 2nd NFC South
2022 Win Total: 8.5 wins
Over 8.5 wins -125
Under 8.5 wins -105
Yards Per play: 26th 4.9
Yards per pass attempt: 22nd 6.8
Offensive QB Sack percentage: 21st 6.84%
Yards per run: 27th 3.9
3rd down conversion rate: 30th 35.45%
Turnover Margin: 8th +0.4
Yards Per Play allowed: 5th 5.1
Yards per pass attempt allowed: 13th 6.5
Yards allowed per rush: 1st 3.7
Defensive QB sack rate: 8th 7.21%
Notable losses: Sean Payton HC
Notable additions: Andy Dalton QB, Jarvis Landry WR, Taco Charllton DE , Tyrann Mathieu S
1st Round Draft Pick(s): Chris Olave WR Ohio State, Trevor Penning OT Northern Iowa
Strength of schedule: 9th (1 Easiest, 32 Hardest)
The Saints took every blow possible in 2021 and still managed to finish 2nd in their division. They lost their starting QB to an injury, started 4 different QBs throughout the season, and played every game without their star receiver Michael Thomas. Despite all of that, they were still able to get a winning record and nearly make the playoffs. All things considered, I would say the Saints had a successful season and performed way above expectations.
For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume Michael Thomas doesn’t play for the Saints in 2022.
For the first time in 16 years, the Saints are going to find out what life is like without Sean Payton. Given the Saints nearly made the playoffs with four different starting QBs, I would expect there to be a significant drop off in coaching. What does help is that the Saints still have Pete Carmichael, who has been with the team since 2009, as their offensive coordinator. That should hopefully provide some sort of structure that fits what the team has done for years. The next problem is Jameis WInston, who was already a borderline backup QB, now has to recover from an ACL tear. Winston was able to practice during OTAs and minicamp, so he should be fairly healthy by the time the season starts. Winston will have his hands full trying to establish connections with whoever ends up playing at receiver. The Saints bring back TreQuan Smith and Marquez Callaway but neither were able to catch more than 700 receiving yards last season. The Saints elected to solve their receiver problem by signing Jarvis Landry and drafting Chris Olave. I think Landry can still be valuable and Olave may see the field rather quickly given the state of things. Perhaps the solution lies with Mark Ingram who could handle the bulk of rushes and thus allow Alvin Kamara to spend time playing more receiver snaps. Ultimately, I think the Saints have enough weapons and capable coaches to survive losing Sean Payton but not thrive either.
The Saints turn to Dennis Allen as their head coach which is a positive sign for the coaching staff as a whole. Allen has been the defensive coordinator for the Saints since 2015. He should have no problems with a unit that was 5th in yards per play allowed and 1st in yards per run allowed. If anything, this defensive unit has even more depth and more experience than last year and should play better as a result. The only concern is how much time Allen ends up spending as the head coach and if that takes away from his duties as a DC.
The Saints have plenty of talent at nearly every position, a top 10 strength of schedule, and a relatively weak division. This total comes down to evaluating how much of a drop off the Saints should see without Sean Payton. The Saints started 5-2 last season with Winston starting. Once Winston went down, the Saints immediately lost 5 straight games. If Winston is healthy for the entire season I think the loss of Sean Payton can be managed given the experience of the coaching staff. I like over 8.5 for the Saints and would bet it as soon as possible in case Michael Thomas announces his return.