The New Orleans Saints moved on from a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback last year and now go into 2022 also without the most successful coach in franchise history.
Sean Payton stepped down after 16 seasons at the helm last January to usher in a new era for the Saints.
Drew Brees, the other major contributor to their solitary Super Bowl success, left some big shoes to fill and a four-man rotation of QBs couldn't quite do it for Payton in 2021.
Jameis Winston started the season and had the Saints at 5-2 before going down on Halloween with an ACL injury, although his performances were a mixed bag.
New Orleans had their kicking issues too, while the loss of 20 players - and two QBs - ahead of a Week 16 clash with the Miami Dolphins probably cost them a chance to record a double-digit win tally and make the playoffs.
|What||NFL Season 2022/23|
|Where||All across the USA with three games scheduled for London, one for Munich and one in Mexico City|
|When||8th September 2022 - 12th February 2023|
|How to watch||The vast majority of games are live and on-demand with NFL Game Pass, while selected games are available via Sky Sports and bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BUF Bills 6/1, TB Buccaneers 7/1, KC Chiefs 10/1, LA Rams 10/1, GB Packers 12/1|
2nd in NFC South (9-8)
The Saints can make a lot of noise offensively if everything - and Winston's play in particular - comes together while the defense improved significantly during the offseason.
This should make 7/2 New Orleans the clear-cut No.2 team in the NFC South behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 1/3 to retain their division title.
The Saints have dominated the Bucs in recent times and seem to have the formula to confuse Tom Brady, so they could be a nightmare match-up for their divisional rivals in the postseason.
Getting there will depend on whether Winson reprises the masterful performances he put in against the Bucs, Green Bay Packers and Washington last year.
The Saints also need to figure out a way to win without former star offensive tackle Terron Armstead, who left in free agency, while first-round rookie selection Trevor Penning - who had been earmarked to take his place - is now out indefinitely with turf toe.
The Saints go straight into a clash with a division rival when they travel to the Atlanta Falcons' Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday 11th September/September 11th.
The series was split down the middle last year as the Falcons survived a fourth-quarter fightback to win 27-25 at Ceasars Superdome before the Saints got their revenge with a 30-20 Week 18 win in The Big Peach.
The two teams have met each other 106 times (including 1 postseason game), with the Falcons earning 54 wins and the Saints on top in the other 52.
New Orleans are favoured in the odds for this one with the Saints 4/9 on the Money Line and the Falcons 37/20 to get off to a winning start.
The two matchups with the Bucs, the first of which is at Ceasars Superdome in Week 2, will be crucial again, with Winston seeking the levels he showed against his former team last year.
The Saints will be keyed up for their first Monday Night Football matchup of the season in Week 9 when they take on the Baltimore Ravens, which precedes the toughest stretch on their schedule.
Dennis Allen's men will face four playoff teams from 2021 between weeks 10-13 including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Bucs - in Tampa Bay - during that run just prior to their late bye week.
The Saints promoted from within when Payton called it a day, moving Allen up from defensive coordinator - a position he had held since 2015.
With 12 years served on the Saints' coaching staff, during two different spells, he should know everything about everybody that matters.
In his time with New Orleans, the Saints have qualified for the playoffs seven times, captured the NFC South division title six times, reached the NFC Championship game three times and won Super Bowl XLIV.
He also found time to accumulate some head coaching experience with the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14.
Allen's defenses have been top-10 for yards per game and in the top-5 in opponent's points per game each of the past two seasons.
QB Andy Dalton (Chicago Bears)
WR Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns)
DE Taco Charlton (Pittsburgh Steelers)
DT Kentavius Street (San Francisco 49ers)
LB Eric Wilson (Houston Texans)
S Marcus Maye (New York Jets)
S Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City Chiefs)
S Daniel Sorensen (Kansas City Chiefs)
S Justin Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
OT Terron Armstead (Miami Dolphins)
LB Kwon Alexander (New York Jets)
S Marcus Williams (Baltimore Ravens)
S Malcolm Jenkins
RB Ty Montgomery (New England Patriots)
OT Jordan Mills (San Francisco 49ers)
QB Trevor Siemian (Chicago Bears)
DL Christian Ringo (Arizona Cardinals)
Who are the New Orleans Saints' key players?
|Defensive MVP||Cameron Jordan|
Chris Olave (1st Round)
In his first season without Brees, Kamara struggled to career lows for yards per carry (3.7), rushing touchdowns (4), receptions (47) and receiving yards (439) in 2021.
But the Saints had four of their five starting linemen miss significant time last year while the quarterback play was inconsistent.
Kamara remains an electrifying runner and reliable receiver out of the backfield and should be the Saints' premier offensive weapon again.
Jordan, who was named to his seventh Pro Bowl last season, is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.
His successor as the Saints' defensive MVP could be Davenport who, despite only playing 11 games last season, tied for 20th in the league in sacks with nine and tied for 13th in forced fumbles with three.
In his fourth season in the NFL, the UTSA alum recorded career-high numbers for tackles, 39 of which 23 were solo, while registering nine tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.