The New Orleans Saints are going through a transition right now. Gone is the Sean Payton era that saw the franchise competing for division titles year after year, and long gone is the Drew Brees-run offense that saw countless dynamic plays in it's prime.
Now it's Dennis Allen's team, and an offense led by Jameis Winston.
Sure, neither has a resume anywhere close to what Payton and Brees brought to the table, but that doesn't mean this is anything near a lost season for the Saints.
It's clear the organization is willing to build around Winston, at least in the short term, and they just might surprise the NFL in 2022.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the heavy favorites to win the NFC South (-320, FanDuel), with the Saints sitting with the second-best odds, all the way down at +380. Sure, this makes sense given what we've seen during the Tom Brady era in Tampa, and their win total of 11.5 feels right. The Saints, though, come in at 8.5, with even money currently on the over, and it at least makes you stop to think: could the Saints be a better team than they're given credit for?
The Saints signed receiver Jarvis Landry recently after drafting talented wideout Chris Olave in the first round, while also adding left tackle Trevor Penning in that same round, giving away next year's first round pick in what's considered a deep quarterback draft in 2023. There's also hope to finally have a healthy Michael Thomas, who used to be a lock to lead the NFL in receptions.
Add those names to Alvin Kamara in the backfield and Marquez Callaway as potentially your fourth receiver, and it's not unreasonable to have high expectations for this offense.
We already know Winston can air it out, the question has always been more about his decision-making. Last year, in a much more restrictive offense, Winston went 5-2 as a starter with 14 touchdowns and just three picks. He also added a career-high 102.8 QB rating to the mix, showing he's certainly capable of being more under control.
The question now becomes whether or not offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will bring a less conservative approach than last year, which led to just 186 passing yards a game from Winston before the torn ACL.
If the offense improves and comes with what was the seventh-ranked total defense in the NFL last year, we could be looking at a playoff team that hits the over on the 8.5 win total in 2022.
Obviously, there's been some big changes in New Orleans, but change isn't always a bad thing, and the Saints could show us just that this year.