The 2021 NFL schedule was finally released. Many experts are fixated on the strength of schedules to project how their teams will perform. A more accurate factor to watch is when the matchups take place during the year. Another factor to consider is trends on how a particular team performs during different segments of a season.
Sean Payton is 143-81 in fourteen seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. That excludes 2012 when Payton served his suspension. The Saints are 49-15 over the last four seasons, all resulting in NFC South championships.
New Orleans will go into the year without Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who retired this offseason. Payton has still constructed a team capable of another playoff run, but they open the year with a big test.
The Saints will host fellow Super Bowl hopeful Green Bay to kick off the regular season. New Orleans has just a 7-7 record under Payton in season openers, though they have won their last two. While the Saints have not stormed out of the gates to start the year often, they've been dominant through the mid-season to fuel playoff runs.
Let’s look at the monthly results that this team has had with Payton on the sidelines, compared against their 2021 opponents.
9/12 - vs. Green Bay
9/19 - at Carolina
9/26 - at New England
Payton's September Record = 25-22
(Home = 15-8; Away = 10-14)
Many believe that a hot start to the year is crucial to a team’s success. The Saints have bounced back from shaky starts in recent years. They have just an 8-6 record during the opening month over the last four seasons but have bounced back strong.
10/3 - vs. N.Y. Giants
10/10 - at Washington
10/17 - BYE
10/25 - at Seattle (Monday)
10/31 - vs. Tampa Bay
Payton's October Record = 41-13
(Home = 24-4; Away = 17-9)
The Saints have been the most dominant team in the NFL during the second month of the season, especially over the last decade. They are 14-0 in October games since 2017 and have won 15 straight, with their last October loss coming on 10/23/16 at Kansas City. They've been especially impossible to beat at home in October, winning 17 straight in the Superdome. Their last October loss at home occurred in 2010 against the Cleveland Browns.
11/7 - vs. Falcons
11/14 - at Titans
11/21 - at Philadelphia
11/25 - vs. Buffalo (Thursday)
Payton's November Record = 39-18
(Home = 20-8; Away = 19-10)
As dominant as the Saints have been in October, they've been just as strong between Halloween to Thanksgiving. They've gone 15-3 in November since 2017, often knocking off division rivals and conference opponents to gain a tiebreaker advantage.
12/2 - vs. Cowboys (Thursday)
12/2 - at N.Y. Jets
12/19 - at Tampa Bay
12/27 - vs. Miami (Monday)
Payton's December Record = 35-25
(Home = 16-15; Away = 19-10)
The NFL normally likes to set up marquee matchups in December that could be a potential playoff or Super Bowl preview. New Orleans has held their own in such matchups, especially over the last four years with an 11-6 December record. They’ve especially strong against division opponents in December, putting the finishing touches on four straight NFC South titles.
JANUARY (Regular Season)
1/2 - vs. Carolina
1/9 - at Atlanta
Payton's January Record = 3-3 (regular season)
(Home = 1-1; Away = 1-1)
Now that the NFL has added a 17th contest for each team, January regular-season games will be an every-year occurrence. During most of Payton's era, a January regular-season finale meant an opportunity to rest players to prepare for the playoffs.
The Saints, just like every team, will face bumps in the road during the 2021 season. While a good start is important, we’ve seen this team nicely rebound if they get off to a slow start. New Orleans has flexed the muscle of a talented roster through the midway portion of recent seasons. They’ll face four 2020 playoff teams and two division rivals through that same stretch this year. If history gives us any insight, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints will be well-equipped to handle the 2021 schedule for a playoff push again.
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