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Saints hope to use elite defense to silence critics

The defense will be the strength of the 2022 team.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints might be in a generally weak conference in the NFC, but the NFC South should still present a challenge with the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the rival Atlanta Falcons always playing the Saints tough. The Carolina Panthers also exist.

It should come as no surprise that DraftKings has the over/under betting line for the Saints’ 2022 win total at 8 games. But, on the back of an elite defense, the Saints could exceed expectations.

Football Outsiders, which coined the statistic “DVOA,” had the Saints ranked 4th in total DOVA in 2021. For those unfamiliar, Football Outsiders defines DVOA as:

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, although we use the same letters to refer to defensive rankings which are adjusted to take into account the quality of offensive opponents. When not adjusted for opponent, this stat is called VOA....DVOA breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality. While it can be used as a measure of total team performance, it differs from other power ratings found throughout the Web because it can be broken down to analyze team effectiveness in any number of ways: down, quarter, rushing vs. receiving, location on field, passes to backs vs. passes to receivers, and so on.

Football Outsiders’ Editor-in-Chief Aaron Schatz recently said he expects the Saints defense to be even better this year: “We have them as our No. 1 projected defense[.]” Schultz went further to say, “[The offense can actually be better than that, right? [Jameis] Winston was pretty good when he played last year.”

DraftKings considers the Saints underdogs at +125 to make the playoffs this year, but Schatz’s Football Outsiders considers them a favorite, with a 57.5% chance to make the postseason. Schatz specifically believes the Saints “are a really nice competitor” for one of the NFC’s wild card spots.

SportsNaut also has the Saints as one of the best defenses in the NFL:

The Buccaneers aren’t the only players happy Tom Brady returns in 2022. We saw once again this past year that the New Orleans Saints defense owns Brady in the regular season. The greatest quarterback ever posted an 89.7 passer rating with a 4-3 TD-INT ratio and two losses against the Saints in 2021.

Brady isn’t the only one who struggled against New Orleans. The Saints allowed the fourth-lowest average quarterback rating (81.7) and allowed the third-lowest touchdown rate (3.4%). Opponents couldn’t do anything on the ground, averaging the lowest yards per rush (3.7) in the NFL.

The Saints’ front seven is one of the best in the NFL and expectations are high at cornerback with Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. When looking for red flags, though, losing deep safety Marcus Williams could result in the Saints allowing more deep shots in 2022.

If the Saints are going to make a run in 2022 (and beyond), all they need is for Jameis Winston and the offense to be “average,” and they can ride the coattails of an elite defense. Of note, this is arguably one of the best offensive lines and running games Jameis Winston has ever had the luxury of playing with, so hopefully Dennis Allen and the Saints won’t have to rely on the arm of Jameis Winston to win them too many games. They will just need Jameis to not lose them too many either.