The Saints schedule that was floating out there and leaked from earlier was legitimate, and we've had some time to put together some early thoughts on it after the official release.
The schedule breaks down like this:
- Five Primetime Games (Two Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Thanksgiving, Thursday Night Football)
- Two Afternoon Late Kicks (Packers - Week 1, Bucs - Week 8)
- Ten Early Kickoffs
Sunday night games between Weeks 5-17 are subject to change, and it's important to remember that the NFL's Flex Scheduling can play a major part in the season for ratings. Starting in Week 12, Monday Night Football can start flexing, but will require a 12-day notice. Here are some thoughts on the Saints' schedule for this season.
Early Bye Week
Facing an 18-game season, the Saints characteristically find themselves taking an early break in the year in Week 6. It will be interesting to see how they approach and fare the 12 games they have on the schedule. Perhaps future years may include a second bye week. The team has a 'mini-bye' after taking on the Cowboys on Dec. 2.
No Crazy Road or Home Stretches
Last year, the Saints went on the road three straight weeks (Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia). That won't be happening this year, as they have three back-to-back road game stints.
- Week 2 - at Panthers, Week 3 - at Patriots
- Week 10 - at Titans, Week 11 - at Eagles
- Week 14 - at Jets, Week 15 - at Bucs
It was hard to count the other one with the Football Team (Week 5) and Seahawks (Week 7) because of the bye week in the middle of it, but it is worth mentioning. Even when they come back from Seattle (Monday Night), they'll get a late kick on the ensuing Sunday (vs. Bucs).
The Dreaded 'Short Week'
It comes at a crazy time, but after the Saints take on the Eagles on Nov. 21, they'll be right back at home several days later for Thanksgiving to host the Bills (who face the Colts at home), and then host the Cowboys just a week later.
In a five-week stretch between Weeks 12-16, the Saints will be featured in the national spotlight. The lone exception is Week 14 against the Jets on the road. This is a team that won't have Drew Brees in the mix, and still get some of the top billing for big games. Playing on Thanksgiving isn't exactly a shock, and that's sure to crush the ratings with the Bills coming to town.
NFC South - Down to the Wire
Three out of the final four games are against the NFC South, with two of those games being on the road (Bucs, Falcons) and one being in primetime (Week 15 - Bucs). The NFL makes it this way because of potential Wild Card and Division clinching scenarios. It's almost saddening to not close out the year against the Panthers.
Lucking Out of the 'Cold Weather'
An observation from predicting the schedule on Tuesday was that the Saints have really lucked out from having big cold-weather games. This year, the only real threat would be the Jets in Week 14, and that's early December weather in East Rutherford. It should be mildly cold, but no matter how it looks, it'll be an interesting game for New Orleans.
Hilariously Way-Too-Early Record Prediction
Given all of the moves and how the roster has taken shape, this feels like an 11-win ceiling for the Saints. That would mean going 11-6, coming into the playoffs as a Wild Card. For now, the NFC South favorite has to be the Bucs. After training camp and preseason, we'll have a better idea of what the team will be. However, they don't particularly perform well out of the gate, and then traditionally hit their midseason stride. They could be a 12 or 13-win team, but 11 sounds like the right number right now.
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