Bold Predictions for Saints' 2021 NFL Season

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 25, 2021

Bold Predictions for Saints' 2021 NFL Season

0 of 3

    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints are going through a transitional phase. 

    For the first time since the 2006 season, Drew Brees will not be on the Week 1 roster. Jameis Winston is the likely successor to the future Hall of Fame quarterback. 

    A different set of expectations come with the new signal-caller, and things have been made worse for him  since Michael Thomas is out with an injury. 

    At the start of the season, the Saints need some of their young wide receivers to step up alongside Alvin Kamara to provide support for the new starting quarterback.

    Marquez Callaway has looked the part of a special wide receiver in preseason, and he could be the breakout star to fill the void until Thomas returns. 

    Callaway, Kamara and others face an almost impossible task of keeping pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a playoff spot through a wild-card berth is attainable. 

Jameis Winston Produces 1st Double-Digit Win Season as Starting QB

1 of 3

    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Winston was part of a single winning season during his five years as Tampa Bay's starting quarterback. 

    However, he finds himself in a different situation now, with New Orleans poised to finish in second place in the NFC South behind the Buccaneers. 

    The Saints are in that spot because the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are going through rebuilding phases of different kinds.

    Carolina has a new quarterback in Sam Darnold set to take over in Matt Rhule's second season as head coach, while Atlanta must rework a disappointing defense that must provide better support for Matt Ryan and the offense. 

    The four divisional clashes with Atlanta and Carolina should help the Saints reach the required total to put them on the brink of the postseason. 

    New Orleans has a favorable out-of-division schedule against the AFC and NFC East. Wins against the New York Jets and a few of the rebuilding NFC East sides should add to the list of victories. 

    Winston is set up to thrive at the end of the season, when the Saints play the Jets and Falcons on the road and the Miami Dolphins and Panthers at home. A Week 15 trip to Tampa is the only matchup that could significantly hurt New Orleans' progress. 

    If the 27-year-old meshes well with the rest of the offense and gets Thomas back at some point, he could lead the Saints to at least 10 wins and a run at one of the wild-card spots with a second-place NFC South finish behind Tampa Bay. 

Marquez Callaway Becomes an NFL Breakout Star

2 of 3

    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Callaway's production early in the season will be one of the primary reasons why Winston gets off to a hot start inside the Saints offense. 

    With Thomas not practicing and Emmanuel Sanders in Buffalo, Callaway needs to turn into a primary target right away.

    The 23-year-old reeled in five catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in New Orleans' latest preseason triumph over the Jacksonville Jaguars

    If he is able to display the same skill he displayed in preseason when the regular season begins, he could start his path to becoming one of the league's breakout stars. 

    Callaway could be in that position even when Thomas returns because New Orleans needs at least two wide receivers to produce at a high level to be competitive over 17 games. 

    In 2020, the Saints had two players record over 700 receiving yards and three reach above the 500-yard mark during a 13-win campaign. 

    If Callaway can replace Sanders' 726 yards and support Thomas when he returns, he could easily be the team's second-best receiver and a surprise performer across the NFL.

Alvin Kamara Gets Close to 2,000 Total Yards

3 of 3

    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The Saints offense will again have a heavy reliance on Alvin Kamara. 

    The 26-year-old produced 1,688 total yards in 15 games last season. He could go well over that total with an extra game in hand and the need for him to shine in both aspects of the offense. 

    Kamara had at least 170 carries and 81 receptions in each of the last three seasons, and he had over 100 targets in three of those four campaigns. 

    With Thomas out to start the season and little experience around Callaway at wide receiver, Winston should call on the Tennessee product to be a big producer from the first snap in Week 1. 

    Kamara averaged 1,541 total yards in his first four seasons, and he should go well over that number with the additional 17th game if he stays healthy. 

    If you add in the reliance New Orleans will have on Kamara at the start of the season, he could push himself to a pace close to 2,000 total yards. 

    That is a massive jump even for a player of his caliber, but until Thomas returns to full strength or more contributors develop beneath him and Callaway, he should be used at one of the league's highest volumes. 


    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.