October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; A general view from Champions Square as fans begin to arrive for a Sunday night game between the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
With the anticipation of the 2014-2015 NFL Schedule, there has been a lot of interesting articles to come out lately. Did you know the St. Louis Rams are giving away $100,000 to anyone who accurately predicts their season schedule? The Buffalo Bills are also in the prize pool, as the team is giving away season tickets to anyone who accurately predicts their season schedule.
Let me preface this article by saying that I’m not a schedule maker (obviously). I don’t know the voodoo math formulas that the NFL uses to prepare the ‘rubix kube’ that is the season schedule. However, I do know a few things that can allow me to speculate what the schedule could end up being.
For starters, flex scheduling will look completely different in 2014. To sum it up, an early game hosted on FOX has the ability to be shifted to the late game slot on CBS, or vice versa. The goal is to bring in more audience, and with CBS officially taking over Thursday Night Football, and having cross-flexing of their own, it’s going to be crazy to see how this all unfolds.
Next, I know, and so do you, the Saints 2014 opponents:
HOME: Green Bay, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Baltimore, San Francisco, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay
AWAY: Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay
Lastly, I do know how the team’s schedule has looked in the past few seasons. So, based on all of this information, let’s see if I can’t give you an accurate portrait of what I believe is going to be the Saints schedule.
Let’s look at the team’s season opener history since Sean Payton entered in 2006.
2013 – vs. Atlanta Falcons
2012 – vs. Washington Redskins
2011 – at Green Bay Packers
2010 – vs. Minnesota Vikings
2009 – vs. Detroit Lions
2008 – vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2007 – at Indianapolis Colts
2006 – at Cleveland Browns
Based off this track record, it would appear that the Saints could be subject to opening the season on the road this year. Obviously, it’s not an exact science that things work this way, but with five Dome openers to three road openers, there’s a good chance we see the black and gold open on the road in 2014.
Here’s a few ideas I have for that opening game.
Bears/Lions – A road game to open the season against an NFC North foe seems highly likely, and if I had my pick, I would believe the Bears would be the front-runner for an entertaining matchup. You may be thinking to yourself that it seems that the Saints always travel to play the Bears. Well, you aren’t losing it. Of the past five matchups between the two, the Saints have played the Bears in Solider Field four times (twice in 2007, 2008, and 2013).
Bucs/Panthers – This seems to be cheating a little, but the safest bet on a road game to open the season would be to pit divisional foes playing each other. The Panthers and Saints are both coming off good seasons, and this would be a nice way to kickstart the Week 1 noon games. However, the Bucs would also be a worthy choice, especially with all of the rebuilding the team has done in the off-season.
Of the rest of the road opponents, I would rule out the Steelers and Cowboys (see next section), and the Browns wouldn’t be a game I’d personally want to lead the NFL season off with, but someone has to play them. I also don’t believe the team would open the season against the Falcons on the road (see next section).
The Saints finished 2013 with five prime time matchups last season. There were originally four scheduled: two Monday Night Football games (vs. Dolphins, @Seahawks), one Sunday Night Football game (vs. Cowboys), and a Thursday Night Football game (@Falcons). The league also flexed the Week 14 Matchup between the Saints and Panthers to Sunday Night Football.
I’m projecting another four prime time matchups for the team, but I’m thinking a fifth is highly likely this season. Here’s my top nominees for Prime Time games in 2014:
Packers – This has all the makings of a great prime time showdown. The two clubs have met four times under Sean Payton, and the record stands at 2-2. The 2011 matchup was featured on Sunday Night Football, and the 2008 matchup was featured on Monday Night Football. The Saints have lost their last two matchups against the Packers at Lambeau, and perhaps a prime time showdown will help the Saints settle the score.
Falcons – There’s going to be an NFC South showdown on prime time football this season between these two teams. The past two seasons have seen the Saints traveling to take on the Falcons for Thursday Night Football. The two clubs also met three seasons in a row on Monday Night Football (2009-2011). One might believe that it’s time to see these two play on Sunday Night Football.
AFC North Team That Isn’t Cleveland – The NFC can’t get all the glory with prime time matchups, and the Saints can’t have all of their prime time matchups at home. Of the AFC North opponents the team faces this season, the Steelers would be my first choice in a prime time matchup setting. If the Saints have two prime time matchups against road foes, then I would believe the Bengals/Ravens replace the Steelers.
Cowboys – Each time these two teams meet, it is sure to attract a huge audience. Perhaps the only problem with this matchup is the fact that the Saints have defeated the Cowboys in eight of the last nine matchups. Aside from last year’s beat down, these two traditionally play tough and tight games. This has been hinted as a perfect Thanksgiving game (see 2010) this season, and it would be a perfect time for these two teams to play. However, it would be interesting to see these two play on Monday Night Football.
Other Considerations: Panthers, Ravens, 49ers, Bengals
THE REST OF THE SCHEDULE
History dictates that the team will close the season against the Carolina Panthers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You’d have to go back to 2007 to find the last time the Saints played someone other than the Panthers (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012) or Bucs (2010, 2013) for the finale, and that opponent was the Bears.
Be sure to take note of everyone that looks at the December matchups. Should the Saints play the Steelers, Bears, or Browns in that time frame, get your hammer out and be ready to beat anyone that suggests anything to do with the cold weather hoopla.
Last year, the Saints saw a particularly brutal stretch that started with Dallas, and then saw the Saints hosting the 49ers, traveling to Atlanta on a short week, a long dismal road trip to Seattle, and then a flexed prime time showdown with the Panthers. I don’t see a repeat this season.
The Vikings and Browns seem to be the least appealing games at this point, but scream the classic ‘trap’ games.
I say all of the previous stuff to say this….the schedule isn’t out, and I have made an educated guess. The dates are simply going by the Sunday associated with the respective week of the regular season, and I have not specified which prime time games are going to be on what date.
With that being said, I give you my best guess at the New Orleans Saints 2014 season schedule:
Week 1 (Sunday, September 7) – @Bears
Week 2 (Sunday, September 14) – @Browns
Week 3 (Sunday, September 21) – Vikings
Week 4 (Sunday, September 28) – Packers (PT)
Week 5 (Sunday, October 5) – @Bucs
Week 6 (Sunday, October 12) – 49ers
Week 7 (Sunday, October 19) – @Steelers (PT)
Week 8 (Sunday, October 26) – Falcons
Week 9 (Sunday, November 2) – BYE
Week 10 (Sunday, November 9) – Bengals
Week 11 (Sunday, November 16) – @Falcons (PT)
Week 12 (Sunday, November 23) *Thanksgiving* – @Cowboys (PT)
Week 13 (Sunday, November 30) – Panthers
Week 14 (Sunday, December 7) – @Lions
Week 15 (Sunday, December 14) – Bucs
Week 16 (Sunday, December 21) – Ravens
Week 17 (Sunday, December 28) – @Panthers
The NFL Schedule won’t be released until Tuesday, April 22. We’ll know soon enough Who Dat Nation!
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