Before the New Orleans Saints take the field against Green Bay in their season opener, they’ll already face some serious disadvantages.
Jameis Winston finally gets his spotlight to shine, but after months of unrest and uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Saints still have reason to feel cautious. Especially when they’ll be up against the ever-consistent Aaron Rodgers.
Players and tactics aside, though, one of the biggest hurdles the Saints will have to jump through is not being able to play in the Caesars Superdome.
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, New Orleans plans to open their 2021 regular season at TIAA Field in Jacksonville, marking just the second time in 17 years that the franchise will play a home opener somewhere other than New Orleans.
Saints fans will likely still fill the stands (and extra kudos to them, given the disaster they’re going through right now), but it just won’t be the same as playing in the good ol’ Superdome.
In 2021, the Saints franchise has been trying to put out the fires that started with Drew Brees’ retirement and their search for a consistent starting quarterback. Then, there came news of Lattimore’s suspension. Michael Thomas delayed his surgery and will be out for at least five games, as will Wil Lutz.
For all the turmoil that’s happened in the past eight months, New Orleans need stability now more than ever, and Caesars Superdome represents that anchor for the Saints, even if the team is looking more and more like a sinking ship.
Not that New Orleans is completely screwed. Winston’s season debut will be exciting to watch, and he already has explosive chemistry with wideout Marquez Callaway.
New Orleans Saints: Season opener in Jacksonville will be difficult test for team morale
New Orleans also reportedly chose Jacksonville as the city to host their opener since it would also create obstacles for the Packers. The Saints’ mentality: if we suffer, you suffer, too.
The Saints are currently practicing in Texas, but they picked Florida because for whatever reason, Aaron Rodgers tends to underperform in the Sunshine State. Rodgers has played seven career games there posting a 3-4 record and an overall quarterback rating of 78.1.
If oranges and Disney World are actually Rodgers’ kryptonite, the Saints have set themselves up for the best possible result.
There’s a pettier reason beneath it, too. According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, “Jacksonville’s relative inaccessibility and unattractiveness as a destination location were the exact reasons the Saints elected to play there.”
In other words, the Saints wanted to play in a city that would be the most difficult to reach as a Green Bay fan.
New Orleans considered Tampa and Miami as potential game day locations but if you do the math, Jacksonville comes out as the most expensive city to travel to (from Wisconsin, at least) because, as Duncan writes, it’s just that inaccessible.
So while Saints fans will loyally make the shorter trek, Packers fans have a much longer and more arduous journey if they want to cheer on Rodgers and Green Bay.
The Saints have done everything in their power to ensure those unruly Packers fans don’t storm the field in New Orleans’ first home game.
Now, their attention must turn to….actually winning the game.
After a tumultuous preseason, the Saints need a win — for themselves, for their fans, and for their beloved Caesars Superdome. The city has been through far too much already, and beating an NFC rival would do wonders to lift people’s spirits.