It’s clear the Saints are begrudgingly in writers’ Top 20, but as playoff contenders they have to be
No one knows to do with the 2021 New Orleans Saints. They’re a win and a 49ers loss away from the playoffs after getting embarrassed in primetime against the Dolphins last week. As a result, a team that has had some very high highs and some incredibly low lows this season is harder than ever to grade. There’s a lot of work to do with the Saints this offseason, but for the time being, 2021 isn’t over yet.
That is, unless you ask certain people. This team is so incredibly hard to grade, some writers have the Saints’ Cameron Jordan as a Defensive Player of the Year dark horse, while others are already declaring the Saints’ season over. That isn’t true by any means, but they have to beat the Falcons on Sunday before they can even start thinking about the playoffs.
ESPN – #19 (From #18)
Choosing the right quarterback in 2022 is obviously the top priority for a Saints team that has used five different QBs over the past calendar year. Jameis Winston probably remains the front-runner, but the Saints will consider all options — blockbuster and otherwise — because Winston is an unsigned free agent recovering from a torn ACL. Regardless of whom they choose, the Saints must surround their next QB with better pass-catchers and a more complete offensive line. Injuries were a major factor in 2021. WR Michael Thomas missed the entire season, while linemen Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat missed ample time. Now the Saints will face some tough financial decisions about how many of those guys they can bring back in 2022, in addition to adding more reinforcements. — Mike Triplett
USA Today – #17 (From #19)
Speaking of the virus, DE Cam Jordan has 7½ sacks over the last three games since COVID forced him to miss the first contest of his 11-year career. Sure, seems like he’s trying to will New Orleans into postseason to get that game back.
CBS – #17 (From #22)
At 8-8, they are still alive, but they need help. The defense was impressive against the Panthers.
NFL – #16 (From #21)
The Saints are somehow still alive in the NFC playoff picture — a testament to great coaching and the fight of a decimated team that has battled through adversity. The defense again played the starring role against the Panthers, piling up seven sacks of Sam Darnold in an 18-10 win at the Superdome. The pass rush was led by Cam Jordan, who’s on a heater right now: The veteran had 3.5 sacks Sunday and has posted at least two sacks in three straight games. A win over the hated Falcons, coupled with a Niners loss to the Rams, puts New Orleans in the dance.
Bleacher Report – #16 (From #20)
The New Orleans Saints just won’t die.
The Saints most assuredly did not win pretty Sunday. New Orleans managed just 73 yards on the ground and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. Over their last three games, the Saints are averaging all of 10 points per game.
But the Saints figured out a way to win a game they had to, drawing praise from head coach Sean Payton in the process.
“When we hear people say must-win games, today was a must-win game,” Payton told reporters, crediting his players’ sense of urgency. “These guys understood it.”
Mind you, the Saints still face an uphill battle to make the postseason. In addition to beating the Atlanta Falcons next week, the Saints need the Rams to defeat the San Francisco 49ers. Neither scenario is especially unlikely.
Will the Saints make any noise in the postseason? No. But if this team can make the postseason tournament after starting no fewer than four quarterbacks this season (Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill and Ian Book), it may well be the best coaching job of Payton’s career.
And given another season sweep of Tampa, the last thing the fighting Tom Bradys want is to have to take on New Orleans in the Wild Card Round.
Yahoo – #16 (From #20)
Cameron Jordan isn’t splashy but he’s one of the best defensive players in football. After getting 3.5 sacks in a must-win game against the Panthers, it’s worth at least considering if he should be in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Sports Illustrated – #18 (From #21)
The Saints will miss the playoffs, but not without an impressive run from Sean Payton. One has to wonder how the future Hall of Fame coach will approach an offseason with more questions than answers. How does he refresh? Where is he in line for a veteran quarterback? How does that inform his next few moves?
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