There once was a time when the New Orleans Saints were routinely predicted to reach double-digit wins.
There once was a time when the Saints had a future Hall of Famer at quarterback.
There once was a time when all Subway footlong sandwiches were $5.00 each.
Those times are gone.
Pro Football Focus recently released their “best bets” for each of the 32 NFL teams (subscription required). For the New Orleans Saints, was it Michael Thomas’s receptions? Alvin Kamara’s rushing yards? Passing attempts by Taysom Hill? Interceptions by Taysom Hill? Nope. None of the above. Instead, it was the over-under for the Saints’ 2021 win total at 9 wins:
Best bet: Saints UNDER 9 wins (-105)
This is a tough one for a number of reasons. Firstly, head coach Sean Payton is one of the league’s finest head coaches, and he was 8-2 in games where Drew Brees was injured during the Brees-Payton era, including 3-1 a season ago with Taysom Hill at quarterback. Thus, to assume that the Saints are going to be bad just because they don’t have Brees is something of a bridge.
Additionally, we have always liked presumptive starter Jameis Winston, who has been one of the more efficient passers in the league at times during his career. However, the Saints lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, leaving them with very little in the way of secondary targets behind Michael Thomas. Winston locking in on Thomas might spell disaster, especially if Carolina and Atlanta improve.
Book makers really aren't high on the Saints this year...— Christopher Dunnells (@ChrisDunnells) July 14, 2021
While this might sound depressing, it might be for a good reason. We’ve already covered why Sean Payton and the Saints might have their work cut out for them in the 2021 season. In short, no team in the recent past, after losing a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, has had a winning season in the year immediately following that quarterback’s departure. Even in situations like Jeff Garcia replacing Steve Young (4-12) or Aaron Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre (6-10), the trend remains.
If Sean Payton can pull off at least 9 wins - which would ensure a winning season in the new 17-game format - it would be a feat of significant magnitude. Whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill take over at quarterback after Drew Brees, Sean Payton has his work cut out for him.
Oddsmakers don’t appear to like Payton’s chances. Pro Football Focus gives the Saints a 25% chance of winning the division and only a 3.4% chance of winning the Super Bowl.