The Saints had yet another successful regular season by reaching double-digit victories and by winning the NFC South (-160) for the fourth consecutive year. They also became the first team to sweep the NFC South with a 6-0 record since the division was formed in 2002. New Orleans ripped off a nine-game winning streak in Weeks 4-13, which was the fourth straight season they’ve had at least a six-game winning streak. Alvin Kamara played a huge role in their success last season, and his Christmas Day performance in the fantasy finals will live on in fantasy lore when he tied an NFL record with six rushing TDs against the Vikings. The Saints finished with a 12-4 record (9-7 ATS) and they made the playoffs (-330) for the fourth straight season, but they flamed out of the playoffs earlier than expected with home playoff losses in each of those seasons including last year in Drew Brees’ final season against the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.
The Saints scored the fifth-most points per game (30.1) and they allowed the fifth-fewest points per game (21.1), which resulted in a 10-6 mark toward overs. New Orleans ended the year with a 5-3 mark in one-score games and an outstanding 4-0 record in contests decided by three scores or more, and they finished with the league’s second-best point differential (+145).
New Orleans’ 2021 win total (9) plummeted by two victories after Brees’ retirement and a tumultuous off-season because of cap issues. The Saints surpassed their 2020 win total by a victory and they passed their total with their 12th victory of the season over the Panthers in the season finale. Entering this season, I have the Saints power rated as the 10th-best team in the NFL (+2500 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the sixth-best team in the NFC (+1200 to win the conference), and as the second-best team in the NFC South (+300).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|1||Green Bay Packers||-3||4:25|
|3||@New England Patriots||-1||1|
|4||New York Giants||-5.5||1|
|5||@Washington Football Team||-1.5||1|
|7||@Seattle Seahawks||+3||8:15 (Mon)|
|8||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+2.5||4:25|
|12||Buffalo Bills||+1.5||8:20 (Thurs)|
|13||Dallas Cowboys||-3.5||8:20 (Thurs)|
|14||@New York Jets||-3||1|
|15||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+7||8:20|
|16||Miami Dolphins||-3.5||8:15 (Mon)|
The Saints would have one of the league’s toughest schedules this season if not for a pair of matchups against the Panthers and Falcons in the NFC South. They also have additional matchups against the Giants and Jets to ease the burden of the schedule. The Saints caught a break since they’re one of 11 teams that won’t face an opponent coming off of a bye this season.
The Saints will face the seventh-toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), which is by far the toughest schedule in the NFC South. They have a critical stretch of games in Weeks 12-16, which could decide if they remain a playoff team in 2021. They’ll take on the Bills, Cowboys, Bucs, and Dolphins in that five-game stretch, who are each lined at 9+ wins. The NFL also scheduled the Saints for five primetime games, including consecutive Thursday night games against the Bills and Cowboys in Weeks 12-13.
Key Off-season Moves
|Nick Vannett (TE)||Payton Turner (DE)||Drew Brees (QB, retired)|
|Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE)||Pete Werner (LB)||Emmanuel Sanders (WR, Buf)|
|Alex Armah (FB)||Paulson Adebo (CB)||Jared Cook (TE, LAC)|
|Ian Book (QB)||Josh Hill (TE, retired)|
|Nick Easton (OG)|
|Trey Hendrickson (DE, Cin)|
|Malcolm Brown (DT, Jax)|
|Sheldon Rankins (DT, NYJ)|
|Kwon Alexander (LB)|
|Janoris Jenkins (CB, Ten)|
|Alex Anzalone (LB, Det)|
|Justin Hardee (CB, NYJ)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9 (-115/-105)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 9 (-110) in late March to 9 (-115)
Super Bowl: +1700 in early February to +2500
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Saints have consistently exceeded expectations over the last two seasons when Drew Brees was out of the lineup. They’re 8-1 ATS in nine games without Brees in the lineup in 2019-20, and the Saints will enter their first season without Brees since he came to the Saints 16 years ago. The Saints have eclipsed their win total for four straight seasons and HC Sean Payton is now 9-5-1 toward the over since he became head coach in 2006, which was the same year Brees moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans.
Payton and his coaching staff should never be underestimated, and there’s a chance the offense could be more dynamic with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill running the show. New Orleans’ offense became limited with Brees’ average depth of target sitting at fewer than 6.5 yards in each of his last two seasons so Payton has the chance to open the playbook a little more with Winston and Hill this season. The Saints still have one of the league’s most dominant offensive lines and one of the best 1-2 combos at running back in Alvin Kamara and Latavaius Murray to ease the transition for Jameis and Taysom.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
New Orleans’ window to win the Super Bowl may have closed after last season with the team’s salary cap woes coming to a head this off-season. Brees’ retirement in mid-March headlined New Orleans’ departures, and the hits kept coming for the Saints with the team losing DE Trey Hendrickson, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Malcom Brown, LB Kwon Alexander, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Jared Cook among others.
The Saints still have plenty of talent assembled for 2021 but this roster isn’t nearly as loaded as it has been in recent years and their depth will be tested more this season. New Orleans had some of the best injury luck in the league last season as it finished with fourth-fewest adjusted games lost (per Football Outsiders). We’ll see if their fortune regresses some this season with a more top-heavy roster than we’ve seen in recent seasons. They’ll be without DT David Onyemata for the first six games of the season because of a six-game suspension while CB Marshon Lattimore could face a suspension for an arrest in Cleveland in March. The Saints also found out this summer that Michael Thomas could miss the first 1-2 months of the season after undergoing ankle surgery in June, which will leave New Orleans with one of worst WR corps during his absence.
Winston is the favorite to take over Tampa’s offense this season, and he has a long history of turnovers and limited success during his time with the Buccaneers. Winston threw 88 INTs and had 23 lost fumbles in 72 career games with the Buccaneers, and he racked up an ugly 28-42 record as a starter (.400 winning percentage). He did go 2-2-1 against his season win totals in Tampa, but the Buccaneers were lined above seven wins just once when they fell 3.5 wins short of their 8.5 win total in 2017. Of course, Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay last season and immediately turned the Buccaneers into Super Bowl champions too.
Notable Player Props
Alvin Kamara: receptions (70.5), rushing yards (945.5), rushing TDs (10), most rushing TDs (+1400), most rushing yards (+4000), OPOY (+1600), MVP (+8000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (74), rushing yards (905), rushing TDs (9)
Best-Case Scenario: It doesn’t matter who is at quarterback, Kamara remains one of the gold standards at the position by maintaining his career 5.0 YPC average and with another 80+ catches.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Kamara misses Drew Brees even more than anticipated as he sees fewer than 95 targets for the first time in his career and his efficiency as a runner dips with the offense struggling more than anticipated.
Latavius Murray: rushing yards (550.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (670)
Best-Case Scenario: With Drew Brees in retirement and Michael Thomas out of the lineup to start the season, the Saints skew more run-heavy than the last two editions of the offenses in which Murray saw exactly 146 carries in each season.
Worst-Case-Scenario: The Saints offense isn’t nearly as effective with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill running the show and Murray can’t maintain his 4.4 YPC average from his first two seasons in the Big Easy.
Latavius Murray (NO) over 550.5 rushing yards (-115, DraftKings). Risk one unit to win .87 units — Murray has to average 32.3 rushing yards per game to clear his rushing total this season, and he’s averaged 41.7 rushing yards per game in his first two seasons in the Big Easy. Our projections have Murray clearing his rushing total by 119.5 yards and, if he’s able to maintain his per game average from his first two seasons, he’d have nearly a four-game buffer to do so. The big question for Murray and the entire offense is will he be as effective as he has been in recent seasons without Drew Brees in the lineup. Murray could at least be a small beneficiary from Michael Thomas’ absence to start the season since the offense should skew more run-heavy since they’ll be left with one of the worst receiving corps with Thomas out of the lineup. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll be running behind one of the league’s elite offensive lines, per Ross Tucker. Murray has a great chance to clear his rushing total if he can see around 10 carries per game, which should be within reach in this new-look Saints’ offense.
New Orleans Saints under nine wins (-105, DraftKings) — The Saints and the Steelers are two of the toughest teams for me to handicap in the league since they both have a wide range of outcomes. I could see both teams going 11-6 and contending for division titles or I could see both teams bottoming out a bit and going 6-11. The Patriots found out last year how difficult it can be to move on from a Hall-of-Fame quarterback last season, and I could see the Saints having the same level of offensive struggles with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston taking over the offense with Michael Thomas out for the first 1-2 months. I’m actually more worried about their stellar defense from the last couple of seasons, which lost the likes of DE Trey Hendrickson, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Sheldon Rankins, and DT Malcom Brown this off-season. DT David Onyemata is also facing a six-game suspension while CB Marshon Lattimore could be facing his own suspension for an arrest in March. This is a soft lean toward the under in New Orleans but I don’t want a part of any season-long wager with this volatile Saints’ squad.