2014 New Orleans Saints Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterApril 24, 2014

2014 New Orleans Saints Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    Ted S. Warren

    In an it’s-about-time moment, the 2014 regular-season schedule for the New Orleans Saints has been released.

    The world now seems right once again.

    The Saints finished with an 11-5 record and captured second place in the NFC South. They traveled to play the Philadelphia Eagles in the postseason and won their first road playoff game in franchise history before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champions the next week.

    New Orleans must build off all its 2013 experiences and grow in 2014 to give quarterback Drew Brees an opportunity to win another Super Bowl before his window of opportunity closes.

    In addition to its normal six games against the NFL South, New Orleans will face the NFC North and the AFC North this season, just like the rest of the division. That leaves two games—on the road against the Dallas Cowboys and at home against the San Francisco 49ers—determined by where the Saints finished last year to round out the schedule.

    Here’s a look at the complete 2014 Saints schedule with game-by-game analysis and predictions.

Week 1: Saints at Falcons

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    John Bazemore

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 7, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons played two relatively close games in 2013, with the Saints winning both. That’s, pretty much, been par for the course between these two teams.

    Since 2008, there have only been two meetings between these two division foes that have been decided by more than 10 points. Take away those two lopsided decisions (one won by each team), and the average margin of victory for the other 10 games was 4.7 points.

    When the Saints and the Falcons play, no matter what their records are, the games are close. They’re heated battles that typically come down to a play or two deciding the victor.

    New Orleans has the manpower, on offense and defense, to make sure those difference-making plays go the Saints way. The Saints were better last season on offense and defense, and that should still remain true in 2014. It may be more difficult to run on the Falcons, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should still have many tricks up his sleeve to disrupt quarterback Matt Ryan from throwing with a lot of success.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 20, Atlanta 17

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 1: New Orleans 23, Atlanta 17 (Superdome)

    Week 12: New Orleans 17, Atlanta 13 (Georgia Dome)

Week 2: Saints at Browns

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    Gerald Herbert

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 14, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    Since 2007 when the Cleveland Browns went 10-6, the franchise hasn’t experienced a lot of success. Over the six seasons since, the Browns are 27-69.

    That’s horrid.

    The one thing the Browns have going for them when it comes to facing the New Orleans Saints is history, both recent and long-term.

    New Orleans is 4-12 all time against the Browns and, in its most recent meeting, dropped a 2010 game in the Superdome by 13 points. Since 1993, the two teams have played five times with New Orleans only winning once.

    But all that history isn’t terribly recent. And there aren’t too many reasons to believe the 2014 Saints won’t go into Cleveland Browns Stadium this season and wreck the Browns.

    Cleveland only scored 19.3 points per game last season, and Ryan might have the Saints functioning better in Year 2 of his 3-4 scheme. The Browns ranked eighth and 18th, respectively, against the pass and run last season, but this New Orleans offense packs a lot of punch.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 23, Cleveland 13


    Sept. 10, 2006: New Orleans 19, Cleveland 14 (Cleveland Browns Stadium)

    Oct. 24, 2010: Cleveland 30, New Orleans 17 (Superdome)

Week 3: Vikings at Saints

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    Morry Gash

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 21, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The Minnesota Vikings won just five games last season and had a ton of trouble stopping opposing offenses.

    That’s good news for the New Orleans Saints, whose prolific offense should have no trouble moving and scoring when these two teams meet this season.

    The Vikings gave up 30 points per game last season, the worst mark in the NFL. They also allowed 6,362 yards of offense against them, only the Dallas Cowboys were worse. Let’s just say head coach Sean Payton should have no trouble designing a game plan to take advantage of Minnesota’s shortcomings.

    The Saints are going to put up points against the Vikings. But even if they had trouble doing so, Minnesota shouldn’t be able to do too much damage with the football.

    Sure, running back Adrian Peterson is an otherworldly beast, but the Vikings’ problems at quarterback don’t lend well to fighting off Ryan’s attacking 3-4 defense.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 31, Minnesota 14


    Sept. 9, 2010: New Orleans 14, Minnesota 9 (Superdome)

    Dec. 18, 2011: New Orleans 42, Minnesota 20 (Mall of America Field)

Week 4: Saints at Cowboys

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    Dave Martin

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBC

    When the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys meet, it means so much to so many in both organizations. Many of the coaches have ties with both sides, as do some players. With the stadiums about 522 miles apart, they fight over the same eyeballs from time to time too, even with Houston closer to both.

    What should really excite anyone getting ready to watch this matchup is the expectation of fireworks.

    The Saints had the second-ranked passing attack in the league last year, gaining 307.2 yards through the air per game. The Cowboys floundered at 30th in the NFL, after giving up 286.8 yards per game.

    Brees is going to love this game.

    The Saints have won their last three meetings against the Cowboys, including two in “Jerry World.” Last year New Orleans put up 49 points at home and beat Dallas by 32. Brees threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns.

    The Cowboys haven’t been terribly active in free agency when it comes to their secondary, so let’s just assume Brees has this game circled.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 33, Dallas 20


    Dec. 23, 2012: New Orleans 34, Dallas 31 (Cowboys Stadium)

    Nov. 10, 2013: New Orleans 49, Dallas 17 (Superdome)

Week 5: Buccaneers at Saints

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    Bill Haber

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 5, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The last three times the New Orleans Saints have hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, things have gone very well for the home team.

    In each of the three games, the Saints have won by at least 11 points, and in each of the last two years, New Orleans has put up 40 points and won by 25. It’s been smooth sailing for the Saints in the Superdome, which is typically the case.

    Tampa Bay is going to bring an improved roster from top to bottom to New Orleans in 2014, and new head coach Lovie Smith should provide the Bucs with better coaching.

    But don’t mistake an improved team with a finished product.

    The Bucs did wonders during free agency to turn their franchise around, but they are still a year or two away from threatening the powerhouses in the league. And the Saints are one of those powerhouses.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 33, Tampa Bay 20

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 2: New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 17: New Orleans 42, Tampa Bay 17 (Superdome)

Week 6: Bye

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    Gerald Herbert

    The NFL scheduled the New Orleans Saints' bye week during Week 6.

Week 7: Saints at Lions

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 19, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    When the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions get together, expect fireworks.

    The Saints finished the 2013 season as the second-ranked passing offense. The Lions were third. Both teams ranked in the top half of the league in points scored; New Orleans was 10th with 25.9 points per game, and Detroit was 13th with 24.7.

    With all the offensive firepower, is it possible additions to each secondary may become the keys to this game?

    James Ihedigbo is a run-stopping force the Chicago Bears picked up in free agency, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. The Saints picked up free safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey. Both will play monumental roles in slowing down opposing offenses.

    Expect points to still be put on the board when Brees and Matthew Stafford are throwing the football. But the more improved secondary may hold the ticket to a win in 2014.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 38, Detroit 30


    Dec. 4, 2011: New Orleans 31, Detroit 17 (Superdome)

    Jan. 7, 2012 (2011 Playoffs): New Orleans 45, Detroit 28 (Superdome)

Week 8: Packers at Saints

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    Jeffrey Phelps

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBC

    There are only four elite quarterbacks in the NFL, which means we so infrequently get to see two square off against one another. All that changes in this Week 8 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

    The Saints finished second in the league last season in passing yards, with a 307.4 yards per game average. The Packers were sixth with 266.8 yards per game, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed seven games. With both Rodgers and Brees on the field, expect an aerial assault.

    The Packers have won the last two meetings between these two teams, but both games were at Lambeau Field. The last time the Saints hosted the Packers, New Orleans dropped 51 points on Green Bay and won by 22.

    That’s been the theme of late.

    Other than the most recent game where Green Bay edged New Orleans by one point in 2012, these games are won with big scores and wide margins of victory. Between 2002 and 2011, there were five battles between these two. In each game, the winner scored at least 34 points and won by an average margin of victory of 20.2 points.

    This season could be a close one, though. And Green Bay will extend its winning streak.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Green Bay 28, New Orleans 24


    Sept. 28, 2011: Green Bay 42, New Orleans 34 (Lambeau Field)

    Sept. 30, 2012: Green Bay 28, New Orleans 27 (Lambeau Field)

Week 9: Saints at Panthers

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    Bob Leverone

    Date/Time: Thursday, Oct. 30, 7:25 p.m. CT/8:25 p.m. ET

    Network: NFL Network

    Don’t expect the same playoff-bound, power-packed matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers as we all saw in 2013. One team took steps to stay as talented as it was last season and one was miserably hurt by free agency and retirement.

    While the Saints will return quarterback Drew Brees and most of his offensive weapons, an almost still intact offensive line (four of the five starters from 2013 are back), and most of the talent that made Ryan’s 3-4 defense a success, the Panthers lost a ton of what made the team work in 2013.

    Sure Cam Newton will be back, but no longer will Steve Smith be a security blanket (or any other receiver from last season that caught a pass). The heart and soul of Carolina’s offensive line (Jordan Gross) led a slew of retirement decisions that could end up crippling this line.

    Carolina’s front seven should be just as good as last season (which means a lot), but the band-aid secondary the Panthers used last season that worked well lost two of its main weapons in Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell. Brees should be able to pick apart the new Panthers secondary.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 20, Carolina 17

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 14: New Orleans 31, Carolina 13 (Superdome)

    Week 16: Carolina 17, New Orleans 13 (Bank of America Stadium)

Week 10: 49ers at Saints

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 9, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The is no love lost between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers.

    From 1970 to 2001 the two were NFC West opponents, and the 49ers got the best of the Saints regularly. New Orleans compiled a 18-45-2 record over that span.

    But since the Saints left the West for the NFC South, they’ve gone 7-3 against the 49ers. But one of those losses were in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs, when the 49ers scored with nine seconds left to win 36-32 and knock New Orleans out of postseason play.

    The Saints beat the 49ers in their most recent matchup, a three-point win in the Superdome. But like the Saints, the 49ers haven’t been hurt terribly by players leaving via free agency. New Orleans has had a better go at adding players who can immediately make a huge impact, but the 49ers have an ace in the hole.

    San Francisco has 11 draft picks in the 2014 draft. You’d better believe the 49ers will make some magic happen with all those picks.

    SCORE PREDICTION: San Francisco 26, New Orleans 23


    Nov. 25, 2012: San Francisco 31, New Orleans 21 (Superdome)

    Nov. 17, 2013: New Orleans 23, San Francisco 20 (Superdome)

Week 11: Bengals at Saints

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    Al Behrman

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 16, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: CBS

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the regular-season success the Cincinnati Bengals have enjoyed in recent years. The Bengals have been playoff-bound in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five.

    Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game in that period of time, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a regular-season football game.

    The running back duo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard could pose a problem for Ryan’s defense, and Andy Dalton throwing to A.J. Green will always be troublesome.

    But the Saints have strengthened their secondary with free safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey, and their run defense showed signs of improvement by holding five of its last eight regular-season opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

    The Bengals defense was tough last year. But some of its best talent—such as defensive end Michael Johnson, who landed in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—departed during free agency.

    Coming into the Superdome is never easy, but expect some points to be scored before the Saints finally settle things.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 36, Cincinnati 30


    Nov. 19, 2006: Cincinnati 31, New Orleans 16 (Superdome)

    Dec. 5, 2010: New Orleans 34, Cincinnati 30 (Paul Brown Stadium)

Week 12: Ravens at Saints

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    Rob Carr

    Date/Time: Monday, Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET

    Network: ESPN

    The Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints haven’t met too often throughout the Ravens’ somewhat short NFL tenure. Since 1996, the Saints have faced the Ravens five times and lost four of those meetings.

    As the win-loss records have been lopsided, so has the venue of the five games. New Orleans has traveled to play in Baltimore four of the five meetings. That imbalance will change a bit this season when the Saints host in Week 12.

    The Ravens were a rather pedestrian 18th in the league in passing last season (224.4 yards per game) and 30th in rushing (83 yards per game). Quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t have enough weapons to throw to, and neither Ray Rice nor Bernard Pierce could muster much success on the ground.

    The Ravens don’t have a lot of mediocrity in their recent history. Before going 8-8 last season, they won the Super Bowl in 2012, capping their fifth straight season in the playoffs.

    New Orleans has to worry a little that this Ravens team is better than their 2013 record, but not enough to think it can’t win at home.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 27, Baltimore 20


    Oct. 29, 2006: Baltimore 30, New Orleans 24 (Superdome)

    Dec. 19, 2010: Baltimore 30, New Orleans 24 (M&T Bank Stadium)

Week 13: Saints at Steelers

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    Patrick Semansky

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 30, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    After starting the season 0-4, the Pittsburgh Steelers went 8-4 the rest of the way in 2013 and won six of their last eight. It was an almost mirror opposite of the way the season went for the New Orleans Saints, who went 5-0 to start and lost three of their last five to finish the regular season.

    Playing on the road is no easy task in the NFL, and that’s especially evident by the Saints' performance. Of their five losses last season (six if you count the playoffs), each one was an away game. New Orleans did notch a playoff road win against the Philadelphia Eagles, but it wasn’t easy.

    And neither will this return trip to the state of Pennsylvania.

    The Saints have played five times in Pittsburgh and won just two. Their two wins were by a combined eight points. Also factor in the Saints have lost at least three games on the road in each of the last three seasons. Thus, New Orleans can’t feel safe about this trip to Heinz Field.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 20, New Orleans 17


    Nov. 12, 2006: Pittsburgh 38, New Orleans 31 (Heinz Field)

    Oct. 31, 2010: New Orleans 20, Pittsburgh 10 (Superdome)

Week 14: Panthers at Saints

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    Chuck Burton

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 7, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers fought for the division crown last season and played two of the most anticipated and important games within the NFC South.

    The Saints pummeled the Panthers in Week 14 at home but lost on the road in Charlotte in Week 16. That loss was what eventually turned out to keep New Orleans from winning the division.

    This new rivalry within the division might no pack the same punch it did a season ago. While both teams had to work hard in free agency and fight against tight purse strings, New Orleans did what it had to do to bring in talent and remain a similarly talented team as it was in 2013. Carolina may experience a huge drop-off.

    The Panthers don’t have a single receiver on their roster who caught a pass for the Panthers in 2013. Carolina’s offensive line was also decimated by retirement.

    The new-look 3-4 defense that worked so well for Ryan and the Saints should mature in 2014, allowing them to easily handle the Panthers.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 24, Carolina 13

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 14: New Orleans 31, Carolina 13 (Superdome)

    Week 16: Carolina 17, New Orleans 13 (Bank of America Stadium)

Week 15: Saints at Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Date/Time: Monday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET

    Network: ESPN

    The New Orleans Saints broke a three-game losing skid in Chicago last season by beating the Bears 26-18 in Week 5. With what quarterback Drew Brees saw, he’d be itching to go back.

    Brees threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-35 passing. Against a Chicago defense that finished the 2013 campaign 30th overall and only managed a league-low 31 sacks, Brees may want to go back for another try at some impressive numbers.

    But the Bears have done a lot in free agency to fix their defense.

    Chicago brought back Charles Tillman and signed a couple of defensive ends in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston who should help slow down opposing offenses.

    New Orleans should still be able to move the football, though, and win a close one in the Windy City.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 26, Chicago 21


    Sept. 18, 2011: New Orleans 30, Chicago 13 (Superdome)

    Oct. 6, 2013: New Orleans 26, Chicago 18 (Soldier Field)

Week 16: Falcons at Saints

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    John Bazemore

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 21, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons have been rivals since the inception of both franchises and have played one another twice per season since 1970.

    The Falcons hold a 46-43 advantage and won the only playoff meeting between the teams. But the current feel of this rivalry is far from one where Atlanta holds the advantage.

    Since 2006, which coincides with the arrival of quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton, New Orleans has won 13 of 16 games and, for the third time in five years,  swept the season series.

    Both games were close, with New Orleans winning by six points in Week 1 and four points in Week 12, but the Saints were by far the better team. And that trend will likely continue in 2014.

    The Falcons have made some moves to improve their run defense and offensive line, but the gap that separated them from the Saints is still wide.

    Expect more close games but Atlanta isn't ready to knock New Orleans off the top of this divisional mountain yet.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 27, Atlanta 20

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 1: New Orleans 23, Atlanta 17 (Superdome)

    Week 12: New Orleans 17, Atlanta 13 (Georgia Dome)

Week 17: Saints at Buccaneers

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    Bill Feig

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 28, Noon CT/1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    It’s easy to look at the 11-5 New Orleans Saints from 2013 and the 4-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and say there’s too much ground for Tampa Bay to make up in a one-year span.

    The Bucs can’t catch the Saints in 2014.

    There’s truth to that statement, but the Buccaneers will be one of the most improved teams in 2014, especially with the reformation project new head coach Lovie Smith has going on in Tampa.

    Josh McCown should be an upgrade over Mike Glennon at the quarterback position. The plethora of Bucs running backs should be healthy and running roughshod over opposing defenses. Even the Tampa Bay defense should be improved from front to back.

    The Saints should still win both meetings in 2014 over the Bucs. But the two games will look more like the two-point loss Tampa Bay endured at Raymond James Stadium last season instead of the 25-point debacle in New Orleans at the end of the season.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 20

    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 2: New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 17: New Orleans 42, Tampa Bay 17 (Superdome)