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Tom Brady’s reign as the best QB in the NFC South ends in 2022. Old man Brady is donezo. TB12 went AWOL from Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp in early August after abruptly retiring following a playoff ass-whooping by the Los Angeles Rams.
Brady is over the grind and Jameis Winston is coming for the crown.
Nah, I’m just kidding about that. Brady will grade out as a better QB than Jameis Winston this season.
But Jameis quietly had his best season in the NFL last year before getting sidelined with a season-ending knee injury. Winston had career-bests in QBR, QB Rating, TD% and INT% through 7 games in 2022.
More importantly, the New Orleans Saints were 5-2 with Winston as the starting QB with a win over the Bucs under their belt. Granted, this was in a Sean Payton offense and Payton stepped away from head coaching this offseason (More on that later).
The most impressive part of Jameis Winston’s solid 2021 campaign was how unimpressive his supporting cast was. Last year was Alvin Kamara’s least productive season by touchdowns and yards per rush. The Saints were without 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas last season. Thomas is at Saints training camp and allegedly looks good.
Also, New Orleans selected former Ohio State stud WR Chris Olave with the 11th overall pick. Olave’s potential is through the roof. The Saints also acquired 5-time Pro Bowl WR Jarvis Landry to play in the slot. The bottom line is New Orleans’s offense has a top-5 potential with a league-average floor if fully healthy.
However, the Saints’ defense has flown under the radar for far too long. New Orleans has ranked 8th or better in defensive efficiency over the last 5 seasons by Football Outsiders. The Saints are 6th in defensive EPA/play and success rate from 2017-2021.
New Orleans has 3 top-10 defensive linemen, 2 top-10 linebackers (according to Pro Football Focus), and a stacked secondary. The Saints acquired 3-time All-Pro S Tyrann Mathieu to QB the defense. In fact, I’d argue the 2022 version will be the best New Orleans defense we’ve seen.
Saints Elephant In The Room
This brings us to the Elephant in the Room, Sean Payton bouncing. Payton was a G and no one is questioning that. But, former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen got promoted and retained most of Payton’s staff. Allen taking the reigns means the Saints can lean into their strength: Defense.
We’ve seen 1st-year coaches take a talented roster far in the NFL. Here are a few examples: George Seifert coached the 1989 Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. Jon Gruden won Super Bowl 2003 after inheriting a loaded Bucs roster from Tony Dungy. The 1994 Dallas Cowboys went 12-4 in Barry Switzer’s 1st year replacing Jimmy Johnson before winning the Super Bowl in his 2nd season.
Now, let’s talk about the Saints’ competition in the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers nor Atlanta Falcons are winning this division. I could listen to a case for the Panthers but the Falcons will be in the C.J. Stroud-Bryce Young sweepstakes.
That leaves the defending NFC South champion Buccaneers who the Saints have dominated since TB12 joined Tampa. New Orleans is 4-0 in the regular season vs. Tampa since 2020 with an average final score of 29-13.
This is the worst Bucs team over the past 3 seasons. Tampa lost 3 interior linemen from last year’s squad, Rob Gronkowski retired for real this offseason and who knows if 1st-year head coach Todd Bowles is up for the job.
In gambling terms, the Saints should be around +185 underdogs to win the NFC South so there’s value in their current +310 price. In fun terms, Jameis Winston and Co. will ball out and New Orleans’ defense is gonna shut teams down.
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- A $100 wager on the New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South (+310) returns a $310 profit.