If they’re going to make the playoffs this season, the New Orleans Saints’ schedule in 2022 could end up playing a big role.
Last year, the Saints finished 9-8 and missed the playoffs, seeing their run of four straight NFC South titles come to an end. They could be operating on equally thin margins this season, perhaps putting into question the Saints’ playoff chances. Of course, we know that in the NFL anything is possible, so let’s take a look at a Saints season preview, including a close look at their 2022 schedule and their playoff chances.
The Saints have undergone more change during this offseason than perhaps any other team in the NFL. The biggest change is that longtime head coach Sean Payton decided to retire. The Saints were quick to promote defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as the team’s new head coach, helping to create a little bit of continuity. However, there have been a few changes to the coaching staff.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins also chose to retire after returning to New Orleans for the last two seasons. Among complementary players, the Saints parted ways with tight end Garrett Griffin, running back Ty Montgomery, and backup quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Trevor Siemian.
On the other side of the coin, the Saints made a splash by signing safety Marcus Maye to help reinforce their secondary after losing Williams and Jenkins. Likewise, safeties Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorensen, and Justin Evans were also signed to help fill those voids. New Orleans also addressed the team’s defensive line with the additions of Jaleel Johnson, Kentavius Street, and Taco Charlton. On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Andy Dalton were the most notable additions.
The Saints’ offseason grades were likely improved after the draft. While New Orleans only had five total picks, three of those picks were among the first 50 selections, including two in the first round.
Chris Olave, a wide receiver from Ohio State, was the team’s first selection, giving the Saints a much-needed offensive playmaker. The Saints also reached a little to select offensive tackle Trevor Penning 19th overall, although after losing Armstead, the Saints needed to address that position as early in the draft as possible.
The team’s other three picks addressed each level of the defense, including the secondary with second-round pick Altontae Taylor, a cornerback from Tennessee.
Coming out of the draft and free agency, the Saints still have a few questions to answer as training camp approaches. In theory, the quarterback position isn’t one of them. Even with Dalton on the roster, Jameis Winston appears to be the clear starter. Of course, Winston has had struggles with ball security throughout his career. While he limited himself to three interceptions in seven games last year, turnovers are always a concern with Winston.
At the same time, protecting Winston is a question for the Saints heading into the season. Needless to say, Penning has huge shoes to fill at left tackle. Guards Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz, while both are also former first-round picks, have had their struggles in the past as well. Considering his turnover-prone nature, keeping Winston protecting has to be considered a priority for the Saints.
New Orleans Saints schedule in 2022
Week 1: at Falcons
Week 2: vs Buccaneers
Week 3: at Panthers
Week 4: vs Vikings (London)
Week 5: vs Seahawks
Week 6: vs Bengals
Week 7: at Cardinals (Thursday)
Week 8: vs Raiders
Week 9: vs Ravens (Monday)
Week 10: at Steelers
Week 11: vs Rams
Week 12: at 49ers
Week 13: at Buccaneers (Monday)
Week 14: BYE
Week 15: vs Falcons
Week 16: at Browns
Week 17: at Eagles
Week 18: vs Panthers
Navigating the schedule
The New Orleans schedule is certainly a mixed bag. On the one hand, the NFC South could be considered one of the weakest divisions in football with both the Falcons and Panthers rebuilding and facing serious questions heading into 2022. That could allow the Saints to stake their claim as the second-best team in the division, which would help keep them in the playoff picture.
On the other hand, the Saints have nine games against teams that went to the playoffs last season. Even worse, seven of those games come in an eight-week span between Week 6 and Week 13. The only game during that stretch that’s not against a playoff team from last season comes against the Ravens, who are poised to bounce back this year. Also, the Saints don’t have a bye until Week 14, which is after that eight-week gauntlet against quality opponents.
The silver lining for the Saints is that four of their first five games in 2022 are winnable games against the Falcons, Panthers, Vikings, and Seahawks. But if New Orleans can’t get off to a fast start, that eight-week run against quality opponents could bury them by the time they get to their bye week.
The Saints are bound to face plenty of challenges in 2022. While Allen has some experience as a head coach, he has a record of 8-28. The Saints are also lacking an elite quarterback and will rely on a rookie at left tackle.
To be fair, the New Orleans defense looks strong at all three levels. If healthy, playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas can do damage, especially with Landry and Olave joining the lineup. However, with plenty of concerns and a difficult schedule, a lot of things will have to break in their favor for New Orleans to be a playoff-bound team in 2022.