Let’s Get Down to Business

New Orleans Saints need strong second half of season to fulfill expectations
Chris
Illustration by Paddy Mills

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.


At the start of the New Orleans Saints’ 2022 season, I predicted that if they could remain healthy the team had enough talent to post a 12-5 or 11-6 record this year, qualify for the playoffs and compete for the division crown.

Expectations were high. Even though head coach Sean Payton retired in the offseason, there was hope for continuity when Dennis Allen was promoted to lead the team. With the majority of starters returning and some highly anticipated additions and injured players getting healthy in all three phases of the game, the Saints looked like they were in position to be a playoff-caliber team.

But if is a big word, and, through roughly the first half of the season, the ever-present injury bug has again taken a big bite out of the team’s well-laid plans.

The Saints finished 28th in the league in total offense in 2021 but appeared to be markedly better entering the season. So far this year, quarterback Jameis Winston, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 8 last year, has missed multiple games with fractured vertebrae, forcing the team to rely on backups Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill into action under center.

At the beginning of the season, it appeared the Saints wideouts could dominate, but former Pro Bowl receiver Michael Thomas — who returned from an ankle injury that caused him to miss last season — has missed multiple contests this year with a foot injury, free-agent signing Jarvis Landry has missed games with an ankle injury, and rookie Chris Olave left the Seattle game with a concussion. Deonte Harty, a receiver and returner, also left the Seahawks game with a turf toe injury.

Luckily, running back Alvin Kamara, who was looking at a six-game suspension at some point this season for allegedly assaulting a man in a Las Vegas casino during last season’s Pro Bowl weekend, has had his court dates postponed until after the 2022 season, making him eligible this year.

The injuries, and an unexpected slow start, have, obviously, impacted the Saints’s ability to begin the season in the manner fans hoped for and expected. If New Orleans is to be a playoff team, Allen, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, and co-defensive coordinators Ryan Nielsen (defensive line) and Kris Richard (secondary) are going to have to manage injuries and backups getting a lot of playing time on offense.

That means the team will have to rely on its defense, which finished seventh in the league last year, as its bedrock.

This month, the Saints face arguably the toughest stretch of the season with games at home against the Ravens, on the road against the Steelers, at home against the Rams, and on the road in San Francisco. In the preseason, I expected a 2-2 performance, but that may have been over ambitious. A 1-3 record may be more on target.

The team’s December slate includes games at Tampa, the bye week, home against Atlanta, and on the road at Cleveland. They should win two of the three and still hold that line.

The team closes the season with two games in January — at Philly and home against the Panthers. I’m staying with my prediction that they’ll likely split these games.

At this point, I believe the Saints could end up anywhere from a 10-7 wild card team to a 6-11 club looking forward to a busy draft and free agency period.

Unfortunately for Saints fans, expectations haven’t met reality in 2022, but there is a lot of football yet to be played. If New Orleans expects to play in the postseason, it’s time to get down to business and have a strong second half of season.