The New Orleans Saints are by no means the best team in the NFC in 2022, but are they better than the Carolina Panthers? Absolutely.
A handful of NFL executives don’t seem to think so, though.
The Athletic asked five NFL execs to rank the NFC, and the top three teams were pretty self-explanatory: the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Super Bowl winner, a team with a 2021 NFL MVP, and a former Super Bowl winner. This makes sense.
Yet toward the middle of the pack, lines get blurry and teams start to get very questionable rankings.
New Orleans sits at 10th overall, which seems fair… until you realize the Panthers are sitting above them at ninth.
An excerpt from the rankings discusses the Saints’ disadvantages heading into 2022:
"The skepticism surrounding New Orleans reflected questions surrounding the offense: an already inconsistent Jameis Winston returning from ACL surgery to play behind a diminished offensive line within an offense that, for the first time since 2005, is not led by Sean Payton."
Ranking the Saints below the Panthers in 2022 is an absolute joke
By contrast, the anonymous NFL executives praised the Panthers for acquiring Baker Mayfield, for fielding a good defense, and for having a “well-rounded” team.
Do they know…. about Matt Rhule? About the Panthers’ continual dumpster fire of a quarterback room? Mayfield may pose as a slight upgrade from Sam Darnold, but we seriously doubt he has what it takes to lead Carolina to a winning record, much less to the playoffs.
Jameis Winston, on the other hand, can string together wins for the Saints as seen in his 2021 performances. His rehab from his ACL surgery has been going astonishingly well, and even though he isn’t leashed to Sean Payton this year, he showed glimpses of his elite form in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Yes, the Saints’ O-line will struggle. Yes, Winston may have trouble generating chemistry with his receivers early on. But on paper, on the pure basis of talent and talent alone, the Saints boast a better, stronger, and more experienced team than the Panthers.
Expect the Saints to do their talking on the field when they face the Panthers in Week 3. This level of disrespect toward NOLA in 2022 simply cannot stand.