2021 Pro Football Preview Magazines

Lindy's Sports Pro Football 2021 Preview
Projected Standings - NFC
East
Cowboys
Washington
Giants
Eagles

North
Packers
Vikings
Bears
Lions

South
Buccaneers
Saints
Falcons
Panthers

West
Seahawks
49ers
Rams
Cardinals
Projected Standings - AFC
East
Bills
Patriots

Dolphins
Jets

North
Ravens
Browns
Bengals
Steelers

South
Colts
Titans
Jaguars
Texans

West
Chiefs
Broncos

Chargers
Raiders

Saints Comments
Drew Brees and Sean Payton are among the best quarterback-coach tandems of all time. And although they underachieved with just one Super Bowl championship, the Saints' high-flying offense was always so much fun to watch. Brees finished his career with 80,358 yards passing, first all-time, and 571 touchdown passes, second to Tom Brady. Who gets passed the torch? Taysom Hill, a gadget player who was 3-1 subbing for Brees last year, or reclamation project Jameis Winston, who didn't see the field much in his first year with the Saints but was re-signed and benefitted from his year with Brees and Payton. He was a turnover machine in Tampa Bay (30 interceptions and seven pick-sixes in 2019) but also passed for 33 touchdowns and 5,109y. Wideout Michael Thomas should bounce back from an injury-filled season and Alvin Kamara is the best dual-threat running back in the league.

In 5 Questions To Be Answered for the NFL South:
Can Jameis Winston become an elite quarterback?
He was the wrong QB for Bruce Arians' "no risk-it, no biscuit" offense in Tampa. If Winston is ever going to fulfill the promise of being the No. 1 pick overall in 2015, Sean Payton will bring it out of him. Winston has the arm talent to be special if Payton can get him to stop throwing the ball to the wrong team.

Highlights from the multi-page writeup on the Saints:
For the first time in a decade and a half, someone other than Drew Brees will lead the Saints into battle. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will have their hands full trying to replace the future Hall of Famer. Both players are bright and talented but arrive with question marks on their resumes. ... One of them will need to emerge and play well to keep the Saints' streak of four consecutive playoff appearances alive.
Whoever wins the starting job will have a talented playoff-caliber roster at his disposal. Eight former Pro Bowlers or All-Pros are on the roster, including two of the most dynamic offensive play-makers in the league: WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara. Their brilliance should aid Winston or Hill in their weekly battles. The offensive and defensive lines remain a strength. The defense finish fourth in the NFL in 2020, the highest ranking of head coach Sean Payton's 15-year tenure in New Orleans. In Cam Jordan, Demario Davis and Marshon Lattimore, the unit has stars on all three levels. As long as the quarterback play is solid, this team should be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot and threaten Tampa Bay in the NFC South.
COACHING
Theoretically, this figures to be the biggest challenge of Sean Payton's head coaching tenure in New Orleans. ... Payton and his veteran staff showed they could win without Brees by going 8-1 with Hill and Teddy Bridgewater when Brees was injured during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. It will be interesting - and validating to Payton's legacy - to see if they can do it for a full season. Payton relishes these kinds of opportunities.
SCOUTING SNAPSHOT
The Saints need Michael Thomas to get back to being 2019 WR Michael Thomas. Injuries and off-field issues stunted Thomas' production last year. Thomas played disenfranchised and unmotivated. With a new QB at the helm, Payton must have Thomas at his best for the offense to function correctly.
LB Demario Davis continues to get better and better with age. Not only does Davis still make plays on the outside with his speed, but he has become a stalwart interior defender who can thump, bump and tackle with the best in the game.
KEY ADDITION
LB Pete Werner
Because of experience, maturity and intelligence, Werner is the most likely plug-and-play rookie in the team's six-man class. Whether he starts at weak-side or middle linebacker remains to be seen; he can play all three linebacker positions.

Athlon Sports Pro Football 2021 Preview
Projected Standings - NFC
East
Washington
Cowboys

Giants
Eagles

North
Packers
Vikings
Bears
Lions

South
Buccaneers
Saints
Falcons
Panthers

West
Rams
49ers
Cardinals
Seahawks

Projected Standings - AFC
East
Bills
Patriots

Dolphins
Jets

North
Browns
Ravens

Steelers
Bengals

South
Titans
Colts

Jaguars
Texans

West
Chiefs
Chargers
Raiders

Broncos

Saints Comments
The front office lost one of its top executives in former pro personnel director Terry Fon­tenot, now the rival Atlanta Falcons' general manager. Brees' longtime quarterbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, is now the Chargers' offensive coordinator. Former tight ends coach and assistant head coach Dan Campbell is now the head coach in Detroit, and he took secondary coach Aaron Glenn with him to serve as his defensive coordinator.
OFFENSE
Who starts at quarterback, of course, is the biggest question the Saints face this season. It might be the most important question the Saints have had to answer since they signed Brees back in 2006. The answer could shape the future of the franchise.
Whoever lines up behind center should have a strong supporting cast. The Saints man­aged to remain fairly well stocked on offense despite the turnover this offseason.
Alvin Kamara is coming off the best year of what has been a marvelous career to this point.
New Orleans is banking on a return to form from Michael Thomas, who suffered an ankle sprain in Week 1 that derailed his season.
Perhaps the gratest gift the Saints could hand their new starting quarterback was keeping their offensive line intact.
DEFENSE
The Saints have steadily improved under Dennis Allen, but he will have his work cut out for him as he enters his seventh season as defensive coordinator. Gone are the top pass rusher (Trey Hendrickson) and one of the NFL's better cover corners (Janoris Jenkins).
New Orleans still has stars on the defensive side of the ball, but it also has mostly un­known quantities next to them. Even in a down year, DE Cameron Jordan recorded 7.5 sacks (snapping a streak of three straight years with 12 or more). The search for consis­tent production opposite Jordan continues.
Veteran Demario Davis put up his fourth consecutive 100-plus-tackle season, continuing to demonstrate that he's one of the NFL's premier off-ball linebackers.
The biggest question mark for the Saints defensively going into 2021 is at one of the cornerback spots. Marshon Lattimore is a stud, but who is going to play opposite him on the boundary?
SPECIALISTS
The most shocking loss of a long-tenured Saints player may not have actually been Brees but punter Thomas Morstead.
Deonte Harris remains one of the NFL's most electric return men when he's healthy, and the Saints have an excellent No. 2 option in Marquez Callaway.
FINAL ANALYSIS
In recent seasons, the Saints have had a Super Bowl or bust mentality. This year is all about answering those big questions that shape the future.
The 2021 season marks a whole new world for the Saints. They held on to most of their foundational players from their recent run of success, but the roster-wide depth they've relied upon so heavily these last two seasons especially took a big hit. It would not be surprising to see the Saints at or near the top of the NFC heap, nor would it be surprising to see them miss the playoffs entirely.

Opposing Scouts Size Up New Orleans
"I think they want Taysom Hill to win the job. I don't know what's going to happen. Tay­som is the better athlete compared to Jameis Winston, but he's never been a proven, consistent thrower. Jameis makes so many mistakes it's a tough call. Ian Book is a very athletic kid. I could see him being the guy who takes over in two years. ...
Payton Turner was an interesting draft pick. He's sort of what Marcus Davenport is like, an athlete who's never put it all together on the field. ...
I like their linebackers. Demario Davis is what you want at the position. Zach Baun is a really good linebacker. I could see Peter Werner starting or playing a lot right away. ...
Their secondary is loaded. They have so many good players, especially Marshon Latti­more. He can stop anyone. ... If Davenport and Turner step up, this goes from a good to potentially an elite defense."

 

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