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Sean Payton was the top coach of the brand new Orleans Saints for 15 years, and the ones loyalties aren’t just likely to disappear completely during his first year of retirement.
Payton told Jarrett Bell of USA Today he believes the Saints will win the NFC South over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what he classified as a “two-team race” heading in to the year:
“And here’s why: We finished this past year at 9-8, with 50-something players that missed games due to injury. You can see two more wins there. That puts you at 11 (wins). And conversely, it seems Tampa has already established some injuries. I believe the first schedule favors New Orleans, just how it creates.
“Atlanta’s in transition. Carolina’s in transition. No disrespect to those teams but Personally i think like it is a two-team race for the reason that division. Might it be close? I’m sure it’ll be. However the coaching staff is intact (sans Payton) with exactly the same coordinators. There’s lots of continuity. And that team knows that it could beat Tampa Bay.”
He’s right concerning the last point, because the Saints have won seven straight regular-season games contrary to the Buccaneers.
Bell also noted New Orleans set an NFL record through the use of 58 players in the starting lineup in 2021 and in addition lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston to a torn ACL after he went 5-2 as a starter.
Perhaps some better health insurance and continued dominance over Tampa Bay might help New Orleans take the division back following the Buccaneers won it this past year.