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Atlanta Falcons News NFC South

Falcons Rival Watch – Familiar Faces Returning to Saints

The New Orleans Saints will look a lot different in 2022 when the Atlanta Falcons face their NFC South rival for the first time next season.

Head coach Sean Payton, a tormentor of Falcons fans for years, has stepped away from New Orleans.

In his place will be Dennis Allen who was head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2012 to 2014 and has been Saints defensive coordinator since 2015. The Saints have maintained more stability this week by keeping offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

Carmichael had been Payton’s right-hand man for more than a dozen seasons in New Orleans, but he’ll have more autonomy to call plays and direct the offense under Allen than he had under Payton.

The Saints finished with a top-12 offense in each of the Payton’s 15 years in New Orleans except one… last season.

Not coincidentally that was the first season Payton played without quarterback Drew Brees who retired prior to the 2021 season.

The Saints dropped to 19th in offense the first season without Brees, but to be fair, Payton and Carmichael had quarterback Jameis Winston playing some of the best football of his career before a season-ending knee injury against the Buccaneers in Week 7 sidelined him.

Winston is still a free agent however, and the Saints offense never looked the same under the likes of Trevor Simien and well-paid Taysom Hill.

New Orleans should be getting wide receiver Michael Thomas back as well. Thomas was first-team All-Pro in 2018 and 2019 before playing 2020 with an injury and missing all of 2021 after surgery to correct said injury.

Thomas will be 29-years old next month and should have plenty left to offer the Saints, especially for a receiver who’s main asset isn’t speed.

Carmichael will be glad to get Thomas back, but it remains to be seen if they roll with Hill for the season or go for a free agent quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was 5-0 in five starts for the Saints in 2019, prompting the Carolina Panthers to regrettably sign him to a massive three-year $63 million contract in 2020

The Saints could try a combination of the two and let Hill be an x-factor who works short-yardage situations and specific packages like he did with Brees.

The Saints may look a lot different next year, but they’ll have Carmichael still in place to try and answer some of the questions facing the Falcons’ biggest rival.

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Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.