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Preseason power rankings see Saints as lower-tier team in 2021

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By: Chris Dunnells

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It’s hard to fault them after the Saints get becoming the victim of bad news.

Here we’ll look at NFL news outlets and their weekly Power Rankings to see where the New Orleans Saints stack up week-to-week. Here’s where the major outlets rank the Saints before we head into the Saints’ first preseason game.

Pro Football Network – #15

The Saints swapped spots with the Vikings in the 2021 NFL power rankings, and it’s completely because of Michael Thomas’ surgery. They have no second option. With Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill battling it out at QB, this is a team that could end up winning 12 games or only six. New Orleans’ defense is talented, and Sean Payton is an outstanding offensive mind.

Sporting News – #20

The Saints have encountered another snag in their passing game post Drew Brees with Michael Thomas still hurting from his ankle injury. That might make them lean even more toward a hybrid offense with Jameis Winston starting but Taysom Hill also seeing a key role in a run-heavy attack to support Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. There’s a bigger concern with the developing defensive deficiencies.

Touchdown Wire – #16

From 2014 through 2016, Drew Brees had more passing attempts (1,959), completions (1,355), and passing yards (15.030) than any other NFL quarterback, and only Aaron Rodgers (109) had more passing touchdowns than Brees’ 102. The Saints wasted all that productivity with horrible defenses, and finished 7-9 in all three seasons.

Now, for Sean Payton, the shoe is decidedly on the other foot.

Last season, the Saints finished second in Defensive DVOA, behind only the Steelers, and that defense could be just as good in 2021. But Brees is retired, and Payton’s options at quarterback are Jameis Winston, the only quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season, and Taysom Hill, the erstwhile Swiss Army Knife who is the darling of every NFL gameday commentator despite proving very little from a starting perspective in his four-year career.

Ideally, Winston shows enough improvement to run this offense (maybe the LASIK surgery pays off?), and Hill can be utilized in specific packages — hopefully without Payton tanking drives by insisting on throwing Hill out there on third down with less than optimal results. If neither option works? Well, there are quarterbacks in next year’s draft, and until then, Payton will just have to live with his defense being several steps ahead of his offense.

Bleacher Report – #20

The New Orleans Saints need a hug.

It was bad enough that the Saints headed into 2021 having to replace the irreplaceable. But now, in addition to deciding whether it will be Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston who succeeds Drew Brees at quarterback, the team will have to open the season without its best wide receiver.

Per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk, Michael Thomas will be sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery in June to repair ligament damage in his ankle. It’s a bizarre situation, both in that the injury happened all the way back in Week 1 of the 2020 season and that news of the surgery didn’t break until over a month after it happened.

As Simmons’ colleague Mike Florio wrote, Nick Underhill of reported that things get even weirder from there.

“Thomas saw a specialist after the 2020 season ended,” Florio said. “The specialist believed that Thomas possibly could rehab the injury and avoid surgery. Thomas, according to the report, was supposed to spend a month or so attempting to heal the ankle and then return to the specialist to see whether surgery would be needed. Underhill reports that the return visit never happened.”

It’s quite the mess—one that Davenport thinks settles the QB debate.

“With no wide receivers of note on the roster, the Saints have to start Hill,” he said. “The team is going to need his running ability—and even then, New Orleans is in serious trouble offensively.”

Yahoo – #15

The initial power rankings for this season are done in June and I don’t like to make changes until after the preseason. This is one team I’d move down now, based on Michael Thomas’ injury. That’s a really bad loss for an offense that was already iffy changing quarterbacks.

Average Power Ranking Composite: #17

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