New Orleans Saints: Analyzing the 2012 NFL Schedule

Zayne GranthamContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints kneels down in the huddle in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL schedules were released earlier this week and although the Saints are fully focused on the upcoming Wild Card game against Detroit, we can look ahead at what to expect next season.

In 2011, the Saints finished 13-3 and won the NFC South on their way to break many different records. This may just be the best season in franchise history if the Saints are able to come away with the Lombardi Trophy. 

The Saints should be just as good in 2012, even if they lose some key players in free agency. Mickey Loomis and the Saints front office is very good at replacing players and bringing in extra weapons. That is obvious at this point, and there is no reason to believe the Saints will not be a contender yet again next season.

Just as every other year, the schedule contains the other three NFC South teams. New Orleans will play Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay on the road and in the Superdome at some point next season.

In 2011, the South sent two teams, Atlanta and New Orleans, to the playoffs, but both Carolina and Tampa Bay missed the playoffs. At 4-12, the Buccaneers may have been the NFL's most disappointing team, but the Panthers may have been the most improved at 6-10. The Falcons finished at 10-6 and earned a Wild Card berth to the playoffs.

Next year, the Saints will be good enough to sweep both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, but I believe that the Panthers will steal a game away from the Saints. That would place New Orleans at 5-1 in the division in 2012.

As we all know, the Saints have been a much different team on the road lately and in 2012 they play at Dallas, New York, Green Bay, Denver and Oakland. Despite playing on the road, I have no doubt that the Saints will win against the Cowboys, Giants, Broncos and Raiders.

However, for the second straight season, the Saints will play against the Packers in Lambeau. I truly believe that this game will go either way, but since we are make predictions we can say the Packers will win this game, since the Saints will win Lambeau during the playoffs this year.

That would place the Saints at 4-1 on the road in non-division games and 9-2 overall.

Games in the Superdome have been absolutely dominated by the Saints in 2011, and I expect nothing different in 2012.

The Saints will play against the Eagles, Redskins, 49ers, Chiefs and Chargers in New Orleans next year, and I honestly cannot see any one of these teams beating the Saints at home.

The Chiefs, Chargers, 49ers and Redskins will be no match for the Saints in New Orleans. The Eagles will have the offense and defense to compete against the Saints, but I just do not think that they will be able to walk into New Orleans and take down the Saints.

I believe the Saints, for the second straight year, finish undefeated at home. That would place the Saints at 5-0 at home in non-division games and a 14-2 record overall next year.

I believe that this is a best-case scenario for the Saints in 2012. New Orleans will have all the talent to compete in the NFL at a high level next year, but they, as any other team, will be susceptible to dumb mistakes. At the very least, I expect an 11-win season out of New Orleans. Anything less would likely be a disappointing season for the Saints at this point.

Expect the Saints to have their fourth straight year with double-digit wins and compete for the NFC South title again in 2012.