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Saints viewed as a fringe contender at best in 2022

The Saints perform best when viewed as an underdog.

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Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There’s a reason they play the games.

After a decade-plus of being viewed as an immediate contender in the NFL due solely to the duo of Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the top, the New Orleans Saints are now faced with uncertainty moving forward. This uncertainty has trickled into the NFL media and fans, with many pundits questioning the legitimacy of the Saints chances in 2022.

For instance, in Pro Football Focus’s latest power rankings, the Saints came in as a bottom-third team in the NFL:

20. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

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.

This sentiment was echoed by the New York Post’s power rankings, who have the Saints in the exact same spot:

20. New Orleans Saints

Consider this a vote that QB Drew Brees isn’t going to unretire. Actually, even if he did, his tank looked empty even before his year off. The Saints operated this offseason like they are a contender. Sounds overly optimistic behind QB Jameis Winston and with questions at WR and LT.

Same for ESPN:

20. New Orleans Saints

Player who benefited most from draft: QB Jameis Winston

Instead of drafting a potential future replacement at quarterback, the Saints made aggressive trades to support Winston with two first-round picks in receiver Chris Olave and left tackle Trevor Penning. Throw in the healthy return of No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas, and we should get a much better idea of how well Winston fits in New Orleans this season. The offense was decimated by injuries in 2021 when Thomas missed all 17 games, Winston missed 10 games and the top four offensive linemen missed a combined 32 games. — Mike Triplett

Only two outlets had the Saints as a top-half team in the NFL, both with the Saints firmly at the 11th spot - Yahoo! Sports and Pro Football Talk. PFT’s Peter King had this to say:

11. New Orleans (9-8, out of the playoffs)

Strange that I like the Saints to be perhaps a win better in 2022 than ’21, even though the brain of Sean Payton will be in a FOX studio on Sundays instead of finalizing a game plan for Jameis Winston. I remember Winston pledging allegiance to Payton last offseason and being so excited to play for him. Now he’s going to have to channel that affection into offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who will be the play-designer and -caller for the first time in his Saints coaching career. “They’ll miss Payton more than people think,” one wise NFL person told me last week. I tend to agree. But there is an offensive salve. How many teams can line up in a three-receiver set with the potential explosiveness of Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave. Not many. Winston will have a playoff receiving corps to lean on every week.

What do you think? Do you agree with these rankings? Would you side more with PFT and Yahoo or PFF and ESPN? Let us know in the comments. Send me presents.