With each passing year, there’s more built up anticipation for the NFL Schedule release, and 2015 is no different. Last year, the St. Louis Rams were giving away $100,000 and the Buffalo Bills were giving away season tickets to anyone who accurately predicted their season schedule. As for this year, the Chicago Bears have been among the first to hop on the bandwagon, offering fans two tickets to all sixteen regular season games. The team has also graciously included air fare, lodging, and $500 per diem road money.
While we can only hope to see the New Orleans Saints execute such an event in the future, our sole focus is on how the schedule falls for the team during the new season. It’s a great chance to establish road trips, and if you’re a displaced Saints fan, come to the city of New Orleans and enjoy some ‘Southern Hospitality’.
It’s time to have some fun. 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 Rubik’s Cube that is the season schedule. However, I’ll use a few bits from the past New Orleans Saints schedules to piece together this year’s.
As a reminder, here’s how the NFL’s flex scheduling works. An early game hosted on FOX has the ability to be shifted to the late game slot on CBS, or vice versa. CBS is solely in control over Thursday Night Football, and still keeps the partnership with NFL Network. The ultimate goal is to bring in more of an audience. So, no matter how the NFL schedule looks when it is revealed, it is still subject to change.
By now, we know (or should know) who the Saints 2015 opponents are. However, to recap:
HOME: Dallas, New York Giants, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay
AWAY: Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay
Let’s look at the team’s season opener history since Sean Payton entered in 2006.
2014 – at Atlanta Falcons
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
As I said last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints open again on the road. I feel like that will be an appropriate start to the 2015 season. Sticking with the whole ‘open on the road theme’, I’m saying that the team will play the Carolina Panthers in Week One. This may seem like I’m cheating a little, as the safest bet of a road game to open the season would be to pit divisional foes playing each other. I know it feels like you want to put your best foot forward in most realms, but the Panthers and Saints are rivals, and generally play entertaining games.
Of the rest of the road opponents, I would rule out teams like the Cardinals, Texans, Colts, and Eagles (see the next section). I could also see a scenario playing out where the Saints play a team like the Redskins, but the NFC South matchup seems like the likely front runner.
The Saints finished 2014 with five prime time matchups: Two Monday Night Football appearances: Baltimore (home) and Chicago (away), two Sunday Night Football games: Dallas (away) and Green Bay (home), and a Thursday Night Football meeting on the road against Carolina.
I’m projecting five prime time matchups for the Saints this season, and would be very shocked to see anything less. Here’s my top nominees for the nationally televised games in 2015:
Texans – This has all the makings of a great prime time showdown. It might be one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the regular season. J.J. Watt and the stellar Texans defense faces off against Drew Brees and the potent Saints offense. Believe it or not, it’s only going to be the fourth time these two face each other in NFL history. The Saints lost their previous meeting on the road against the Texans in 2007, but lead the series 2-1. I’d peg this one to be a nice Sunday Night Football showdown.
Colts – It’s going to be the first time that the Saints play a regular season game in Lucas Oil Stadium. Last season, they did travel to face off against Indy in preseason action, and even walked away victors. It’s crazy to think about how good the Saints looked in that game, as both their first team offense and defense impressed. It just goes to show you that the preseason, for all intents and purposes, provides a false sense of security. Brees versus Luck. It doesn’t get much better than two gunslingers going at it.
Falcons – There’s a bit of an empty feeling not seeing these two teams square off in a prime time setting. Historically under Sean Payton, the Saints have had the Falcons number. However, last year saw them being swept by Atlanta, something that had not happened in nearly a decade (2005). These two teams hate each other, and they always have a lot to prove. I think this might get the attention of a bigger setting this year (in other words, not Thursday Night Football), but my gut tells me it’ll be in Atlanta.
Cowboys – Each time these two teams square off, it is going to attract a huge audience. Prior to last season, the Saints had the Cowboys number, winning eight of the last nine contests. Sadly, last year didn’t work out for the black and gold, as they were dominated by the Cowboys in front of a nationally televised audience. Dallas won their appropriate ‘revenge game’ from 2013’s 49-17 thrashing, a game in which the Saints set the NFL record for most first downs. As for this year, you can’t help but feel that this is going to be another marquee matchup. Personally, I hope to see this on a Monday Night Football contest.
Cardinals – Strange things happen out in the desert, as many teams discover. The Saints fell victim to this following their Super Bowl season. We all laughed off the game at first. I mean, Max Hall, really? The hobbled Saints would fall to the Cardinals 30-20, and leave us all scratching our heads. At any rate, the Cardinals are among the toughest teams to play in their own backyard, 13-3 to be exact over the past two years. With a strong team, despite some offseason losses, Bruce Arians is going to keep the Cardinals a respectable foe in the NFC West. The thought of these two colliding in prime time just makes me anxious.
Other Considerations: Giants, Eagles, Lions
The Rest of the Schedule
History dictates that the team will once again 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, 2014) for the finale, and that opponent was the Bears.
Last year, whether you deem it as coincidental or not, saw the Saints playing a vast majority of their opponents when they were coming off of a bye week. The Saints also took on the Packers on Sunday Night Football only to find themselves traveling to play the Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Do the schedule makers even think? Here’s to hoping that scenario doesn’t pan out again.
Looking ahead to the month of December, battling the elements in a place like Washington or Philadelphia is entirely possible. Last year, the Saints opened the season playing three out of their first four games on the road, which figured to be troublesome. Classic ‘trap games’ figure to be against the Jaguars and Titans.
I say all of the previous stuff to say this….the schedule isn’t out (although it’s supposedly ready), and I have made an educated guess. Take me seriously, or don’t. The dates I’m giving you are simply going by the Sunday associated with the respective week of the regular season. With that being said, I give you what I believe will be the New Orleans Saints 2015 season schedule:
Week 1 (Sunday, September 13) – at Carolina
Week 2 (Sunday, September 20) – Tampa Bay
Week 3 (Sunday, September 27) – Tennessee
Week 4 (Sunday, October 4) – at Arizona (PT)
Week 5 (Sunday, October 11) – at Washington
Week 6 (Sunday, October 18) – Detroit
Week 7 (Sunday, October 25) – at Atlanta (PT)
Week 8 (Sunday, November 1) – Jacksonville
Week 9 (Sunday, November 8) – BYE
Week 10 (Sunday, November 15) – at Tampa Bay
Week 11 (Sunday, November 22) – at Indianapolis (PT)
Week 12 (Sunday, November 29) – Dallas (PT)
Week 13 (Sunday, December 6) – at Philadelphia
Week 14 (Sunday, December 13) – Atlanta
Week 15 (Sunday, December 20) – NY Giants
Week 16 (Sunday, December 27) – at Houston (PT)
Week 17 (Sunday, January 3) – Carolina
All signs point to the NFL Schedule being released on Thursday, April 23. However, Pro Football Talk has mentioned that it’s possible to see it Monday or Tuesday. Either way, we’ll know soon enough!
How do you see the schedule playing out for the Black and Gold? Who would you like to see the Saints play in the season opener? What games do you feel are going to be the prime time matchups?
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