The New Orleans Saints only have two wins after seven weeks. The season is pretty much over for them, right? Wrong! Despite a brutal 2-5 record, the Saints are only one game out of the lead in the NFC South.
After starting 2-0, the Buccaneers only have three wins and are struggling to score points as time may have finally caught up to Tom Brady. Tampa Bay has lost back-to-back games to the struggling Steelers and the Panther, who are in the process of blowing up their team. They've scored more than 21 points just once this season.
The Falcons have been up and down but most of their games have been close. Until the last two, which included a double-digit win and loss, their other five games were decided by six points or less.
Despite a win against the Buccaneers in week seven, the Panthers are clearly working toward 2023 after trading Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson, and moving on from Matt Rhule. It is hard to imagine them winning too many more games, especially if they trade more players away.
That leaves the Saints, who have not been impressive yet in the first two months of the season. They have scored the most points of any of the NFC South teams and given up the most. Jameis Winston is getting closer to returning and though he isn't a superstar, he gives the Saints a better shot at winning than Andy Dalton.
Dalton hasn't played poorly for the most part. He has more touchdowns than Winston (seven to four), fewer interceptions (four to five) and a better Quarterback Rating (90.1 to 79.5). When healthy, Winston just seems...better.
How can Jameis Winston help the Saints win the NFC South
Bob Rose from FanNation pointed out on Monday that there wasn't much difference between Dalton and Winston so far in 2022. Rose pointed out how the offensive line has played better of late, and the running game has improved. This is all very true.
Still, Winston is the more exciting player. He has a bigger arm and he is a bit more mobile. Yes, he still makes some bad throws that lead to turnovers but his arm always gives the team a chance. If he's not under constant pressure and the running game can divert the attention of the defenses a little more, Winston will be more effective.
If the oft-injured Michael Thomas can return, it would provide a solid addition to the offense for Winston, IF he gets the nod. If Winston returns and Thomas and Jarvis Landry can get back on the field soon, the offense will be at full strength. The emergence of Chris Olave as a big-time weapon for the Saints, combined with the talents of Thomas and Landry, give New Orleans a lot of firepower in the passing game.
Alas, the schedule doesn't give the Saints many breaks. They host the Raiders, who are probably better than their 2-6 record, and the Ravens over the next two weeks. After that, they have a winnable game against the Steelers before facing the Rams and the 49ers in back-to-back weeks.
The next two weeks will be incredibly important if the Saints want to remain in the race to win the division. It doesn't seem like any of their rivals are prepared to run away with the divisional title at this point. Tom Brady still exists, on a team with several weapons and a terrific defense, and that is scary, but the Buccaneers haven't been impressive at all yet in 2022.
A healthy Winston gives the Saints a better chance to compete right now, especially if Thomas and Landry get back on the field soon. No one is running away with this division so if the Saints can beat their AFC South rivals and stay close they could end up in the playoffs.