Are the Saints playoff contenders or pretenders in 2022?

New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Saints are playoff contenders in 2022, but with a humongous asterisk: Jameis Winston must stay healthy.

Recent news out of training camp has surrounded Winston’s foot injury that saw him exit Monday’s practice early, though Winston appears to be “doing well” per Adam Schefter.

Backup Andy Dalton will take starting snaps in camp and in the Saints’ preseason opener, and Dalton’s experience should help keep the Saints’ roster competitive heading into the start of the 2022 season.

Will Dalton lead NOLA into the playoffs, however?

Absolutely not.

The Saints’ success this season hinges on Winston’s healthy return, and so far, we’ve seen a few troubling signs of Winston’s inability to stay on the field. Winston has been rehabbing well so far and apparently dodged a bullet on Monday, yet the 17-game schedule is a marathon for any starting quarterback, especially one coming off of serious injury.

If Winston can stay on his feet and continue generating chemistry in the passing attack, the Saints have a real shot at a deep postseason run.

For the most part, hopes are high in Saints camp this season compared to last, and much of that has to do with the stability that Winston provides.

NOLA Saints can be playoff contenders if Jameis Winston finds his elite form

Fans will remember the constant looming cloud of murkiness and indecision that hung over the then-QB battle between Winston and Taysom Hill. Winston ended up winning the job later on, but the damage was done — and once Winston went down early in the season, all hope was lost.

In 2022, Winston may not yet have earned his two-year contract but he still got one, and that shred of decisiveness has likely changed the vibe in New Orleans. Along with an exciting wideout trio in Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, and Jarvis Landry, Winston’s return to the field is pregnant with anticipation and excitement.

Everyone already knows the Saints have a playoff-caliber defense. They’ve had one in each of the last several years now, and 2022 is no different. The offense, though, is a whole different story.

Gone are the days of Mr. 30-30. With a talented receiver corps by his side, Winston has the potential to produce a jaw-dropping comeback performance for the ages in this new Saints era. He still has plenty of fans to win over, and in truth there’s no guarantee Winston won’t start throwing picks left and right in 2022, but it’s hard to deny the effect he’s had so far this offseason.

Next. 4 Saints who will prove fans wrong during the 2022 season. dark

Short answer: Yes, the Saints are indeed playoff contenders. The long answer to that question, though, involves one or two crucial factors that could make or break the team’s season.