For some time, the Saints have known who they would play in 2013, but it wasn’t until April 18 that the dates and times and television determinations were released to the public.
The Saints finished in a tie for second place in the NFC South last season with a record of 7-9. Is a bounce-back year on the horizon for the folks in the Big Easy?
Here is a look at the complete 2013 Saints schedule with a game-by-game analysis and prediction.
Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 8, noon CT
One of the most underrated rivalries will renew between two teams that should once again be playoff contenders. The series split last season and very well could again in 2013. Both teams match up well with each other and should play two exciting games.
The Saints have the edge when Atlanta visits New Orleans. Though Matt Ryan thrives inside domes, the home crowd will make things difficult on its hated rival. Atlanta’s secondary will also have a tough matchup defending Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham.
New Orleans’ defense will have a tough time slowing down Atlanta’s offense, especially with Steven Jackson now in the fold. The game will come down to whether or not the Saints can force enough errant throws and mistakes from Ryan. As in most rivalry games, the unexpected can happen, and this meeting will be no different. Jackson will be stifled, and New Orleans wins the home meeting against Atlanta with a late defensive stop.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 35, Atlanta 31
Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 15, 3:05 p.m. CT
The Buccaneers have improved their roster enough to be more competitive in the NFC South this year. After starting the first half of 2012 strong, they finished horribly, with Greg Schiano appearing to lose his locker room.
All signs are pointing to a team regrouping and focusing on winning again. The Buccaneers have a young up-and-coming quarterback in Josh Freeman and should be able to spread the ball around the field with Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree and Steve Smith at the receiver position.
Running back Doug Martin could be poised for a big outing against a Saints front that isn’t the best against the run. The NFC South will be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, and the Buccaneers will prove why with a home win over the Saints.
SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 21
Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 22, noon CT
Carson Palmer will hope to have more success than any of the three quarterbacks that started games for Arizona did a year ago.
However, Palmer’s offensive line will need to improve fast. New Orleans’ didn’t have a great defense a season ago, and that may not change a season later. But it has enough weapons on offense to score on what was a stingy Arizona defense in 2012.
Patrick Peterson is turning into one of the better NFL corners, and adding Yeremiah Bell at safety should be an upgrade over Adrian Wilson. And the offense could receive a bigger boost with Larry Fitzgerald having someone like Palmer to throw him the football.
However, the Cardinals don’t have anyone that can check tight end Jimmy Graham, which will be where this game is won. Drew Brees, inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will throw two touchdowns to Graham en route to victory.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 30, Arizona 21
Date/Time: Monday, Sept. 30, 7:40 p.m. CT
When facing New Orleans, the question many defensive coordinators often mull over is this: What’s the best way to stop or slow down Drew Brees?
Well, it’s no different than any quarterback. You have to pressure him and force him to rush throws. Miami might actually have a front seven that can do this after making a big splash in free agency this offseason. After franchising defensive tackle Randy Starks, the Dolphins signed inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler.
Ellerbe is a versatile linebacker that has the speed to blitz from the inside, as well as cover on passing downs. Though Wheeler only had three sacks in 2012, he can be a formidable pass-rusher if given the opportunity. The Dolphins offense also added Mike Wallace at receiver, which will surely help Ryan Tannehill and the passing game.
The Dolphins have a chance to be the NFL’s most improved team. And even though the game is in New Orleans, look for Miami to walk out with a win.
SCORE PREDICTION: Miami 26, New Orleans 20
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 6, noon CT
It may not seem like a big move, but getting Martellus Bennett will aid Jay Cutler and the Bears more than you’d think. Bennett is a multi-purpose tight end that possesses above-average speed and can get past linebackers trying to cover him. It was a nice pickup for the Bears, who were in need of some help at the tight end position.
Even though the Bears let go of Brian Urlacher, they should be fine with D.J. Williams replacing him. The secondary is a strong unit with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at cornerback, with safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte capable in their own right.
The Saints could be in some trouble at Soldier Field, as Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will be in their second year of their reunion tour. Matt Forte has become an NFL top-five running back and can make plays in both the running and passing games.
The kind of balance Chicago will show offensively will give New Orleans some trouble. But the Saints will be competitive with a strong-as-usual outing from the offense. This feels like one of those games where the Saints' running back corps can take advantage of the absence of Urlacher.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 24, Chicago 21
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 13, 3:25 p.m. CT
It’s always a treat when two elite quarterbacks are slated to go head to head. Drew Brees and Tom Brady should provide an offensive shootout between both teams. Both defenses will be average, which should allow for some offensive fireworks to take place.
The Patriots are breaking in Danny Amendola and Michael Jenkins on offense, so a lot of New England’s success will hinge on Brady’s chemistry with the new players. But New Orleans’ defense won’t have an answer for Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez, especially with the game in Foxborough, Mass. And when the Patriots need to run out the clock, they’ll call on Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to take on the task.
It will be an entertaining exhibition of offense. But the Patriots win by three. Plenty of points will be scored in today’s uptempo, pass-happy NFL.
SCORE PREDICTION: New England 38, New Orleans 35
After playing three home games and three on the road, including a two-week stretch where New Orleans travels to both Chicago and New England directly prior to their bye week, the Saints get a Week 7 break.
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 27, noon CT
Whether it's Kevin Kolb or a rookie starting at quarterback, this is an ideal game for an average defense like the one has New Orleans has. The Bills have two weapons on offense – receiver Steve Johnson and running back C.J. Spiller. The Saints will roll coverage to Johnson and load the box to stop Spiller.
Spiller’s the kind of athlete that could still make plays on his own. Will it be enough? Probably not. Despite the fact that Buffalo is trying to build a better defense, it will be tough to visit New Orleans and slow down Drew Brees and the passing attack. Da’Norris Searcy will have his hands full when he’s matched up against Jimmy Graham in the slot.
Buffalo should still be in a transition period this year. Without a top-tier quarterback, it will be tough to win shootouts against some of the tougher teams. Buffalo does have some good individual talent on defense, but not enough to contain the New Orleans offense.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 28, Buffalo 14
Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 3, noon CT
Let’s face it: The Jets are a mess. Is there anything going on within that organization to make us believe they’ll be a playoff contender this year?
Mark Sanchez (or David Garrard) will need to show some drastic improvement at quarterback for the Jets to have a good shot at beating teams with elite offenses. Though Rex Ryan has always been known for his defensive coaching abilities, the roster he has right now is filled with question marks. On top of that, his best cornerback, Darrelle Revis, could be traded later this offseason. Without Revis, how will the Jets stop anyone?
This will be one of the few games where the Saints could utilize balance and score at will. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram could see more carries than usual, as the Jets should remain susceptible to the run. The Saints will be away from New Orleans but should be able to get a win with the kind of ease they’d receive inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 33, New York Jets 13
Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. CT
The Dallas Cowboys hired Monte Kiffin to be the new defensive coordinator after making Rob Ryan a scapegoat for the 2012 season. But will the 2013 defense actually improve? If Kiffin couldn’t motivate a college defense at USC, does he still have any superb coaching left at the NFL level?
It’s hard to believe Dallas will improve drastically on defense with Kiffin in control. That said, the offense should be able to put up some big numbers once again.
A year ago, the Saints went into Dallas and came away with a 34-31 overtime win. With both offenses stacked the way they are, we can expect another shootout to be in the works when both teams meet this coming season.
Dez Bryant has unlimited potential and very well could put up some scary numbers this year. New Orleans doesn’t have a cornerback that can cover him, nor the safety help to keep him from making plays in traffic. Miles Austin is outstanding in the slot, and Jason Witten has always been a reliable weapon for Tony Romo. The game will hinge on whether or not Romo limits his mistakes. After receiving a huge contract extension, Romo will look to prove the doubters wrong all year.
The Saints will have trouble slowing Romo down, but the same can be said about Brees.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 37, Dallas 33
Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 17, 3:25 p.m. CT
This will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the 2013 season: the high-flying Saints’ offense vs. the stifling defense of the 49ers. Drew Brees will want to avenge last year’s 31-21 loss in front of the home fans, and fortunately for New Orleans, it gets the same matchup inside the same Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The only major difference on defense for San Francisco is inserting Craig Dahl at free safety for Dashon Goldson, now in Tampa. Other than that, the Niners’ defense will look to get after Brees and the passing game early and often.
What will hurt New Orleans in this matchup will be the addition of Anquan Boldin on offense. Now that Colin Kaepernick has Boldin to work the middle of the field, more looks will open up for Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. The Saints fans will want revenge. But Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense—not the defense—will prove to be too much in this year’s meeting.
SCORE PREDICTION: San Francisco 27, New Orleans 23
Date/Time: Thursday, Nov. 21, 7:25 p.m. CT
Network: NFL Network
The Falcons and Saints hate each other. The hate will never die. Atlanta fans took it to a new level when they egged the Saints’ team bus at an airport last season.
The Falcons and Saints will possess two of the more intriguing offenses in the NFL. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is coming of age and has two dangerous wideouts in Roddy White and Julio Jones, not to mention Tony Gonzalez is returning for yet another season. Steven Jackson will instantly become a fan favorite in Atlanta and could help be the catalyst that gets the Falcons to a Super Bowl.
New Orleans will do its best to come away with a win in Atlanta. But the Falcons’ defense will do just enough in front of the home crowd to keep Drew Brees and company from lighting up the scoreboard. With the home crowd backing them, the defense will rise to the challenge and hit Brees enough times to throw his rhythm off.
SCORE PREDICTION: Atlanta 27, New Orleans 20
Date/Time: Monday, Dec. 2, 7:40 p.m. CT
The Seahawks figure to be one of the best teams in 2013. Russell Wilson was lights out as a rookie, and now he has Percy Harvin to target in the receiving game. Harvin will give New Orleans nightmares with all of the various places he can line up and direct attention.
Harvin will complement Sidney Rice nicely, which should help the Seahawks throw the ball downfield more. Add the option element with Wilson and the power run with Marshawn Lynch, and you’re looking at a potential chance for Seattle to dominate average defenses, like the Saints'.
The Seattle defense improved its lineup too, if that was even possible. Bringing Cliff Avril on board gives Seattle another threat to rush the quarterback, which could give the Saints’ offense headaches on the road.
New Orleans will be in most games throughout the 2013 season. It won’t be when it plays Seattle. The Seahawks will manhandle the Saints in front of the 12th man.
SCORE PREDICTION: Seattle 41, New Orleans 17
Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 8, noon CT
Yes, the Panthers should be better in 2013. They lost a lot of close games in 2012 and just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. But the Saints will also be better this upcoming season now that they have their coach back on the sideline.
The Saints are tough to beat at home, mainly because Drew Brees thrives on being able to work inside the comfortable confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Panthers were able to put up points in bunches against a Saints defense that couldn’t stop a nosebleed a season ago. Now that the Bountygate scandal is behind them, the Saints should return to their winning ways.
Brees will be on a mission to get back to the postseason and should be able to do work against an average-at-best Carolina secondary. Jimmy Graham will be a mismatch against the Carolina linebackers and Marques Colston should be able to win most of his battles.
The key for Carolina will be getting to Brees, which is easier said than done. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks at getting rid of the football on time and avoiding sacks. Look for a Saints blowout at home.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 41, Carolina 20
Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 15, noon CT
The Rams should be an improved team this year. But playing in a dome will actually work against them when New Orleans comes to town.
Drew Brees is usually good indoors and will continue to be, even against a stout St. Louis front seven. Brees may not be able to put up 350 yards and four touchdowns. But he’ll get plenty of chances to throw downfield and put up points for the Saints.
Jimmy Graham will be the key to a Saints win. Rams corners Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins will be able to muscle through Marques Colston and Lance Moore at times. But the Rams will need Darian Stewart to limit Graham’s chances at big plays. Not many strong safeties in the NFL can guard Graham, and that would appear to be a matchup to exploit.
Darren Sproles could also play a pivotal role, seeing that the Rams will be tough to run against. Sproles could very well rack up 100 total yards with the majority of his total coming out of the backfield.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 26, St. Louis 21
Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 22, noon CT
The Panthers won’t be an easy win for anyone in 2013, and they really weren’t for most teams a year ago. Only two teams blew out Carolina, with the other seven losses being by six points or less.
Cam Newton was able to have field days in two wins over New Orleans last year and will be riding a lot of momentum, considering the Panthers were able to win their final four games of the year. If Newton and the offense have the same kind of success with the option at home, Carolina could post another win against New Orleans.
The Saints defense will be improved with Sean Payton running the team. But it won’t be good enough to shut down Newton and the running game. Carolina will defeat the Saints at Bank of America Stadium, with Newton throwing for more than 200 yards and running for another 75.
SCORE PREDICTION: Carolina 31, New Orleans 27
Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 29, noon CT
The Saints scored a total of 75 points in both meetings with Tampa Bay a year ago. Could they repeat that kind of scoring output again?
Sure, why not? Anything is possible with Drew Brees at quarterback. The Buccaneers will have an improved back end with Dashon Goldson joining Mark Barron at safety. And there’s still the possibility the Bucs trade for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis as well.
But the Bucs don’t have Revis, so that can’t be considered at this time. Though the Buccaneers are strong at safety, it will be tough to defend all of the options New Orleans has at receiver and tight end.
The Bucs won’t be blown out at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome like they were a year ago. Josh Freeman and the offense will put up more of a fight, assuming Greg Schiano doesn’t lose his team for a second consecutive season. But New Orleans will come away victorious with a two-score decision.
SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 24