It's mid-December and it's that time of the year again for Saints' fans.
It's time to look ahead at next season.
Thanks to St. Louis' loss coupled with Seattle's win in Week 16, the Saints' 2009 slate of opponents is now complete.
As always, you can expect the Saints to play each of the NFC South opponents twice. I expect Carolina and Atlanta to both be tough next season. Tampa Bay may be a little down because Monte Kiffin will be gone.
To figure out the rest of the Saints' schedule, you have to understand the NFL's schedule rotation.
First in the NFC, the South played against the entire North division this season. They played against the entire West division in 2007. That means that NFC South will play against the NFC East (Dallas, NY Giants, Philadelphia, and Washington) in 2009.
When the Saints played against the entire NFC East in 2006, they went 3-1 against them in the regular season and 1-0 against them in the post-season.
In the AFC, the South played against the entire West division this season, the entire South division in 2007, and the entire North division in 2006. That means that the NFC South will play against entire AFC East (Buffalo, Miami, New England, and NY Jets) in 2009.
To piece together the remainder of the schedule, we head back to the NFC. The Saints will finish in last place of their division, so they will play against the last place teams in the rest of the NFC.
Detroit and St. Louis have clinched the cellar in their divisions and will face the Saints in 2009.
On paper, it appears that the NFC South will own the toughest schedules in the NFL in 2009.
The division trades a mediocre AFC West for an AFC East that currently has two teams with 10 wins and could wind up with three.
The division then trades an NFC North that boasts only two teams with .500 or better records for an NFC East that boasts all four of its teams at .500 or better.
I know it's early, but it looks as if only one team from the NFC South will emerge to make the playoffs in 2009.
Only once (2006) have Saints been the only member of their division to make the playoffs.