For the first time in 15 years, the New Orleans Saints enter unfamiliar territory. Drew Brees has retired. Not to mention, the quarterback who will replace him, either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill, is still in question. Expectations remain lower versus the last couple of years. A number of media experts expect the Saints 2021 season to see the team barely achieve a .500 record.
New Orleans Saints 2021 Season Has the Team Flying Under the Radar
The change at quarterback and the questions that come with it, on top of another virus surge put the Saints in an unusual position. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now the clear favorite in the NFC South after winning the Super Bowl last season. Honestly, the Bucs are not even the biggest hurdle at the moment. David Onyemata faces a six week suspension. Wide receiver Michael Thomas is sure to miss a portion of the season with an injury. There are also gaps at other critical positions that still remain.
On paper, the challenges look to be all-consuming. But, Sean Payton is poised to put together another winning season with few believers on the outside of the locker room. This upcoming season will no doubt test his abilities. Payton is regarded as an offensive genius. Scoring points through the air has largely been the “bread and butter” since he arrived in New Orleans in 2006. However, having someone new under center may change the offensive philosophy at least early on, especially when you look at the early part of their schedule.
Four of their first six games are on the road (they do have a bye in Week 6). Starting the season with that many road games is challenging enough, but the new 17 game schedule takes effect this season and the Saints are still trying to address some key areas.
After an opening day game at home against the Green Bay Packers the Saints go on the road to play the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots in back-to-back road games. Carolina is always a tough in-conference foe, and the Patriots will be better in 2021 than they were in 2020. And the Saints have gotten off to slow starts before. In Week 4 the Saints will take on the New York Giants at home, which should be one of their easier games. But, the next two games are against playoff teams back-to-back.
The Washington Football Team brings the lumber on defense. After that, the Saints have a bye before heading west to take on the Seattle Seahawks. Those first six games early on will tell fans a lot about where this Saints team is headed.
Winning Ugly Could Be Important
Many times the Saints have pulled out “Houdini-like” seasons after a poor start. And, if needed this season, perhaps that can occur once again. However, that is a dangerous way to go about it. Obviously, it is possible for a team to play poorly yet still win an ugly game. Obviously, the Saints hope to win games in a cleaner fashion this season, but no longer having Brees under center will certainly be a tall task to overcome.
The Saints are flying a bit under the radar in 2021. There are only three preseason games, which will provide fewer opportunities to oil the machine for the regular season. While expectations are not high, surprises do happen (remember 2017). The Saints may have to win some games in an ugly fashion this season if they hope to make some noise. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the New Orleans 2021 season.