USA Today predicts the Saints will return to the playoffs in 2022 – Saints Wire

What are your expectations for the New Orleans Saints? Super Bowl or bust? Any improvement over last year’s performance? Or just to tread water in the post-Sean Payton era? Everyone has their own thoughts on where the Saints are headed, but just getting back to the postseason would settle a lot of discontent.

The latest take comes from USA Today’s Nate Davis (subscriber only), who predicts the Saints will finish 2022 with the same record that they found in 2021 — but this time it’ll be enough to get them into the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 7 seed. Here’s what Davis had to say about his prediction for what he sees as a 9-8 Saints team:

“The tiebreaking formula relegated last season’s 9-8 team a non-playoff qualifier. It wouldn’t have mattered had QB Jameis Winston (knee) been available for more than seven games (5-2 record). Winston was playing the most efficient football of his NFL career in 2021 before going down – albeit with since-departed HC Sean Payton and RB Alvin Kamara, who could face a stiff suspension in 2022 given his involvement in a fracas at last season’s Pro Bowl. Still, the Saints should be well balanced by their topnotch defense, and Winston should have no shortage of weapons given the arrival of WRs Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave, a first-round pick, to say nothing of Michael Thomas’ return. And remember this: New Orleans has seven straight regular-season wins against the Bucs.”

Honestly, that’s a fair take. We don’t know exactly how tough life without Payton will be; he basically willed the team into a winning record last year with so many things falling apart for his offense. Things will obviously be different without Payton at the helm, especially on offense, and it’s very possible that the Saints stall out rather than improve over last season’s disappointing performance.

Still, it would be encouraging to see New Orleans back in the postseason, even if Davis predicts a first-round exit in a road loss to the reigning-champ L.A. Rams. Seeing the Saints figure out enough different things under a new head coach and with stability at quarterback would get their arrow trending up as far as the national consciousness is concerned.

But personally, I’ve got higher expectations for this Saints team, and they’re likely hoping for better than nine wins themselves. They’ve made enough upgrades and retained enough talent to where they should notch double-digit wins and push the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the NFC South title, and a home playoff game. If they’re running hot by December and Winston is putting up points with his new receiving trio, the Saints will surprise some people. Let’s just not get ahead of ourselves. Any success they’ll hope to find in the fall starts with long afternoons at training camp practice this summer.