The NFL regular season schedules were released today and have many people talking. It has been a drama filled season for the New Orleans Saints and I am sure they are ready to get back on the football field this season. The New Orleans Saints’ full schedule can be found here, and I have highlighted 5 key games that every Saints fan should be watching this upcoming season:
1. Week 1: Sunday, September 9th New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Redskins: The Saints open the regular season against the Washington Redskins and this first game offers many intriguing factors. If the Redskins use their 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III the Saints would be the first team to get a crack at Griffin III. It would be a huge game for both teams; Griffin III would have a lot of pressure since it would be his first NFL game. Furthermore, the Saints would have a lot pressure on them since it would be the first game without suspended head coach Sean Payton. However, I would still give the edge to the Saints; they are playing at home in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome and the home fans will no doubt be very supportive. This game will be the first time we get to see if the Saints have improved or not. This will also be the debut of the Steve Spagnuolo led defense and it will be interesting to see how they can contain Griffin III (if the Redskins draft him). The Redskins did improve in the offseason and are expected to improve in the draft but the Saints are a better team and the Redskins are a team they should be able to beat.
2. Week 7: Sunday, October 21st New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The game against divisional rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a big game for the Saints as well. This will be the first of two meetings between the teams and it is sure to be an emotional one for players on both teams. This will be the first time the Saints will face former teammate and star player Carl Nicks; he signed with the Buccaneers this offseason as they made him the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL. Furthermore, the Buccaneers bolstered their receiving corps by signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson; one of the biggest signings of the offseason. This will be a tough game for the Saints as the Buccaneers improved immensely during the offseason. This game could go either way and it will be a big game for both teams that could have playoff implications down the road; this game could be one of the deciding factors in which team wins the NFC South.
3. Week 8: Sunday, October 28th, New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos: The game against the Denver Broncos might be the biggest game for the Saints in the first half of the regular season. I know this is a non-conference game but there will be plenty of going on in this game. For one, it will be the first game interim head coach, Joe Vitt, will be eligible to coach. Also, it will be the first and only time in the regular season that the Saints will play against new Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning. If that was not enough the Saints will also be squaring off against former cornerback, Tracy Porter. Furthermore, there is a sense of irony that the Saints will be playing a Broncos team that features Manning and Porter. Porter was the one who intercepted Manning to essentially secure the Saints’ Super Bowl victory in 2009. I would look for this game to be a high scoring affair as it will feature Manning and Drew Brees. However, I think the team that can execute defensively will have the upper edge. If the Saints’ defense can contain Manning then the Saints should be able to beat the Broncos.
4. Week 12: Sunday, New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers: I know Saints’ fans already have this game marked on their calendars and this is a must win game for the Saints. After losing in one of the greatest divisional playoff games in recent memory last season, the Saints are sure to be anxious to exact some revenge against the San Francisco 49ers. I am sure this game will come down to the wire, much like last season’s divisional playoff game. I would look for both teams to grind it out until the last minute. Furthermore, the 49ers might be even tougher this time around as they will have newly acquired wide receiver Randy Moss joining Vernon Davis in their receiving corps. The Saints’ secondary is pretty depleted now and unless they get some quality players in the secondary this might be a very difficult game for the Saints. However, the Saints will be playing at home this time around and the Saints thrive in the Superdome; I really do not think the fan support should be underestimated. There is so much on the line for the Saints in this game and I think they will find a way to win this game; the Saints can beat the 49ers but only time will tell how the Saints play this season and if they can get a victory against their rivals.
5. Week 17: Sunday, December 30th, New Orleans vs. Carolina Panthers: This is the last game of the regular season for the Saints and it could be a very crucial one depending on how the first 15 games go. The Saints could be jockeying for playoff position and this game against the Carolina Panthers could potentially make or break them. The Panthers are a divisional opponent and they have one of the best up and coming quarterbacks in Cam Newton. Newton will only improve off of last year’s rookie of the year campaign and I would expect the Panthers to improve this year as well. This will be the last home game of the regular season for the Saints and I think it is a must win. No one will know how the Saints’ season will turn out but if it comes down to this final home game it could prove to be the biggest game of the season. I think the Saints will have enough fire power to beat the Panthers and hopefully a victory will help the Saints get good position for the playoffs, if they do indeed make the playoffs this season.