#16 – at Cleveland Browns (Week 2, 9/14) ‘Taming the Dawg Pound’
We have to start somewhere when ranking these games, so this seems like a good place to begin. Mostly powered by four John Carney field goals, the Saints won their last road victory against the Cleveland Browns in 2006 19-14. If you can believe it, in their series history since 1999, the Browns are actually 3-1 against the Saints. If you can also believe it, the meeting in ’06 brought more attendance (72,915) then the two games at the Superdome (2010, 2002). Granted, the 2006 game was the season opener. If you can also believe it, the Saints have one of their worst franchise series records against the Browns (4-12). The Browns have upgraded tremendously on paper, and whether that transpires on the field remains to be seen. There’s also this guy named Johnny Manziel in the Dawg Pound franchise. The ‘Rob Ryan squaring off against a former foe’ will make for a great storyline. I won’t automatically give the Saints this one, as the Browns always like to play spoilers.
Prediction: Saints 20, Browns 14
#15 – Minnesota Vikings (Week 3, 9/21) ‘Pushing Peterson’
The Vikings are a bit of a question mark as they enter the 2014 campaign. Since losing four straight to the Vikings (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008), the Saints have won three in a row. It’s hard to ever discount Adrian Peterson, but I’m more interested to see who plays quarterback for the Vikings. The sting from this once heated rivalry is long gone, and we don’t have Jared Allen around to make stupid comments. This will be the ‘Dome Opener’ for the team, and they should roll.
Prediction: Saints 31, Vikings 13
#14 – at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 5, 10/5) ‘The Jolly Roger 101′
Spoiler alert! The next four game rankings are all NFC South opponents. Let me first start by saying that this can change, depending on if there are playoff implications. It’s not that I don’t believe these matchups will be good, I just have others ranked higher on my list.
By Week 5, Lovie’s Smith new team should have a good bit of chemistry. However, because of the way the schedule falls – hosting Tampa in the final game – I put the road game at this spot. I think Smith’s team will still be working a few kinks out, which could make the season finale extremely interesting. It’s never an automatic in Tampa, and if you check the past three road contests, these games have been decided by 3, 7, and 6 points. We could also add the ‘high’ receivers of the Bucs against the Saints secondary to this matchup.
Prediction: Saints 23, Bucs 17
#13 – Carolina Panthers (Week 14, 12/7) ‘Super Cam!’ (Jordan, not Newton)
December could be a very fun time for the New Orleans Saints. Last year, the league was kind enough (or smart enough) to flex the home matchup to Sunday Night Football. The Saints would roll, but the Panthers would get revenge a few short weeks later. I am not as high on Carolina this year, even if they are the repeating NFC South Champs. Despite addressing a glaring host of holes at wide receiver through the draft, this team will either be trying to coast on easy street, or struggling for a win. New Orleans is not the place you want to try to go and get a victory at this point in the season. As a side note, the Saints are 18-20 lifetime against the Panthers, and have won four out of the last five home meetings (2012 was thanks to garbage officiating). I don’t see that trend stopping.
Prediction: Saints 28, Panthers 17
#12 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 17, 12/28) ‘Swashbuckling Tales’
The Saints hopefully have things locked up well before this point (we’re hoping Dome Field Advantage). Last year, the team did have to play late into the season just to secure a playoff spot, and the Bucs were the victim of a Saints thrashing. Let me put it this way, the Saints have beat the Bucs 83-17 in the past two games in the Superdome. Despite any of this, I believe by this time at least a first round bye will be secured, and it’s time to rest our starters and put in the depth.
Prediction: Bucs 23, Saints 16
#11 – Atlanta Falcons (Week 16, 12/21) ‘Rotiseriee Chicken: New Orleans Style’
Assuming there’s no playoff or division implications involved in Week 16, this game ranks lower on my list. Some believe that the Falcons are primed for a complete turnaround this year. At this stage in the season, they could be fighting for a wild card spot, but I’ll take the latter. The Falcons are the Falcons, and while it’s still a rivalry game, Santa Claus can bring us a nice win over the ‘Dirty Birds’ for Christmas.
If you’re a Falcons fan and don’t buy any of what I just said, how bout some ‘fact crap’? 7-1 at home since 2006.
Prediction: Saints 30, Falcons 20