After leading the New Orleans Saints to nine playoff appearances, seven division titles and a Super Bowl title, coach Sean Payton stepped away, so 2022 will begin a new era with the Saints.
New Orleans did have its fifth straight winning season but missed out on another postseason appearance due to a tiebreaker. The Saints went 1-3 in games decided by seven points or less and that included an overtime loss to the New York Giants that ended up costing the team a chance for another postseason appearance.
New Orleans will play its home opener against defending NFC South champion Tampa Bay in Week 2. The season could come down to a challenging eight-game stretch against Cincinnati, Arizona, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco and Tampa Bay. The season ends with one 2021 playoff team on the schedule in the final four contests.
The Saints were just 3-5 at home in 2021. Each of their last four games at home finished under the total.
The Saints (+350) are second behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the odds to win the NFC South Division title according to the NFL predictions. New Orleans saw its run of four consecutive division titles snapped in 2021.
New Orleans (+4000) is tied for eighth among NFC teams in the odds to win the Super Bowl, according to the NFL playoff odds.
- 2021 record: 9-8 (second in NFC South)
- Playoff result: Did not qualify.
- Season opener: at Atlanta Falcons, Sept. 11, 1 p.m. EDT
- Playoff teams on 2022 schedule: HOME – Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay; AWAY – Arizona, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay
- Key newcomers: S Tyrann Mathieu, WR Jarvis Landry, S Marcus Maye, QB Andy Dalton, RB Malcolm Brown, OL Nick Martin, S Daniel Sorensen, DE Taco Charlton, DL Jaleel Johnson, LB Eric Wilson, WR Chris Olave (first-round pick), OT Trevor Penning (first-round pick), CB Alonte Taylor (second-round pick).
- Key losses: OT Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, RB Ty Montgomery, QB Trevor Siemian, OL James Carpenter, OL Jordan Mills, DT Christian Ringo, LB Kwon Alexander, DB Jeff Heath, DB Malcolm Jenkins, TE Garrett Griffin.
- Award candidates: Chris Olave, +1000 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds; Alvin Kamara, +5000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Michael Thomas, +5000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Tyrann Mathieu, +8000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Jameis Winston, +8000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Cameron Jordan, +10000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Marshon Lattimore, +10000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Marcus Davenport, +10000 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Taysom Hill, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds..
With star receiver Michael Thomas back after missing all of last season and the selection of former Ohio State star Chris Olave at No. 11 overall in the 2022 draft, there should be more explosive plays coming out of the passing game during the upcoming season.
Jameis Winston is the leader in the quarterback race after going 5-2 as a starter in 2021 with 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. However, veteran Andy Dalton was brought in so he could also work his way into a starting role as the Saints continue to search for the answer at the quarterback position after years of having Drew Brees running the offense.
Off-the-field issues does leave the status of running back Alvin Kamara up in the air. After four straight seasons with more than 80 catches, Kamara’s reception total dropped to 47 without Brees throwing him the ball. His yards per carry fell from 4.97 through his first four seasons to a career-low 3.7 a season ago.
Mark Ingram was re-acquired during the 2021 season, Malcolm Brown comes in from the Miami Dolphins and former Baylor star Abram Smith was brought in as an undrafted rookie free agent, so there are options at running back if Kamara does miss time.
Jarvis Landry, who had 83 catches and 1,174 receiving yards back in 2019, is coming off career lows of 52 catches and 570 yards last season, so perhaps a move to New Orleans can resurrect his career.
There were times in 2021 when the Saints relied on former undrafted free agent Marquez Callaway to provide big plays in the passing game. There will be more options for whoever the quarterback will be in 2022.
New Orleans has used three of its last six top-50 draft picks on offensive linemen. The latest addition is tackle Trevor Penning, the 19th overall selection in April’s draft. He could play immediately with former starting tackle Terron Armstead now with the Miami Dolphins.
Keeping tackle Ryan Ramczyk healthy will be a key for the offense. Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz are other key offensive linemen. Nick Martin was recently signed as a free agent after spending the 2021 season with the Raiders.
New Orleans very quietly finished fourth in the NFL in scoring defense and seventh in total defense. The Saints allowed 12.7 points in the nine wins and 27.6 points in the eight losses so a little consistency could go a long way.
Cameron Jordan (a team-high 12½ sacks), leading tackler Demario Davis join cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo as key returning players on defense.
Dennis Allen on Paulson Adebo: “He’s really stepped his game up to this point at camp.”
— Rod Walker (@RodWalkerNola) August 1, 2022
The safety position will look a little different without Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams. Look for fourth-year safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to be joined by key offseason acquisitions Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye as the last line of defense. Daniel Sorensen was also brought in from Kansas City. Defensive back Alontae Taylor was selected in the second round after New Orleans double dipped on offensive players in the first round.
More will be expected from defensive lineman Payton Turner, a first-round pick in 2021. Other than Jordan, there are plenty of questions up front. There figures to be added responsibility for young linebackers Zack Baun and Pete Werner.
After eight years working on Payton’s staff, including the last seven as defensive coordinator, it is time for Dennis Allen to take over as the head coach.
There are questions on both sides of the ball. Will either Winston or Dalton be the answer at quarterback? Will Kamara miss time after his arrest for battery while he was taking part in the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas?
Are there enough playmakers in the front seven on defense?
Other than a Week 2 game against Tampa Bay, New Orleans should be favored to pick up some wins early in the season. Things will get challenging beginning with a Week 6 matchup with reigning AFC champion Cincinnati. That starts a stretch of seven matchups with 2021 playoff teams in a span of eight games heading into a Week 14 bye.
The regular season expected win total is set at 8½. The odds are at -120 for the Saints to go over and -110 to go under that total.
Something to consider for those who bet online: New Orleans didn’t cover in consecutive games in the first 12 games in 2021 before finishing the season 4-1 against the Las Vegas odds.