Now that we've had a day and a half to thing about the New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule, let's break it down week-by-week and predict wins and losses.
There's not a lot of science involved in predicting NFL games that seem a lifetime away (it's actually just under five months) and the Saints have potential player suspensions coming up that could alter these prognostications.
Week 1 vs. Washington Redskins - Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Whichever top-of-the-draft quarterback the Redskins end up with, he's going to get a eyeful of one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Week 1. That is, if Drew Brees ever signs and joins the team. Prediction: Win (1-0).
Week 2 at Carolina Panthers - Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
The Panthers will be much improved in 2012. But you just don't progress from a six-win season to contending with the Saints in a single offseason unless something extreme happens. Carolina hasn't had massive roster additions and even though the Saints are going through turmoil with the bounty issue, they still have enough to beat Carolina. Prediction: Win (2-0).
Week 3 vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. ET
The Kansas City defense is still young and while it's moving in the right direction, New Orleans still will pack a punch on offense in 2012. Prediction: Win (3-0).
Week 4 at Green Bay Packers - Sunday, Sept. 30 at 4:15 p.m. ET
This Week 4 matchup with Green Bay should be the first time the Saints face real adversity without their head coach Sean Payton and interim head coach Joe Vitt. With both of those coaches on the sidelines, Green Bay has a slight edge. Since they'll both be gone, this should be the first loss of the New Orleans season. Prediction: Loss (3-1).
Week 5 vs. San Diego Chargers - Sunday, Oct. 7 at 8:20 p.m. ET
This will be the Saints first of four primetime games this season. Historically, of late, San Diego hasn't fared well in the month of October and this trip to New Orleans shouldn't go well for the Chargers in 2012. Prediction: Win (4-1).
Week 6 Bye
Week 7 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sunday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. ET
This Week 7 game will be the last without interim head coach Joe Vitt. New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano should have the Buccaneers moving in the right direction by this point, but Tampa Bay won't be ready, yet, to hang with New Orleans. Prediction: Win (5-1).
Week 8 at Denver Broncos - Sunday, Oct. 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET
For those that like shootouts, this Drew Brees-Peyton Manning matchup should not disappoint. Not that I have any intimate knowledge of how the transition back to interim head coach Joe Vitt will go down, I just foresee a few kinks. Prediction: Loss (5-2).
Week 9 vs. Philadelphia Eagles - Monday, Nov. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET
It's rare that a New Orleans team loses two-straight games, but Philadelphia will be a NFC East contender this season and could pull off a win here. What's going to be even crazier if this happens is the rumblings that will be heard as Vitt starts his interim stint off with two losses. Prediction: Loss (5-3).
Week 10 vs. Atlanta Falcons - Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Good teams don't lose three games in a row, and New Orleans is a potential Super Bowl threat. Plus, the Saints have had massive amounts of success of late against the Falcons. Prediction: Win (6-3).
Week 11 at Oakland Raiders - Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4:05 p.m. ET
After his first win, Vitt should have this Saints team clicking in Week 11. Even a trip out west shouldn't derail things. Prediction: Win (7-3).
Week 12 vs. San Francisco 49ers - Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4:15 p.m. ET
The 49ers ended the New Orleans season in the playoffs last year and will punch them in the mouth again here in 2012. San Francisco's tough defense will be a great matchup for Brees, and this is where the team might miss head coach Sean Payton. Prediction: Loss (7-4).
Week 13 at Atlanta Falcons - Thursday, Nov. 29 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Since the 2006 season, the Saints have beaten the Falcons 10 times out of 12. Potential player suspensions aside, I think the Saints have done more with their offseason than the Falcons have. Prediction: Win (8-4).
Week 14 at New York Giants - Sunday, Dec. 9 at 4:15 p.m. ET
Yes, the Giants squeaked into the playoffs last year, but New York gelled at the right time and it used a massive pass rush to disrupt opposing offenses. The same will happen here, too. Prediction: Loss (8-5).
Week 15 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
There aren't too many better things to see after a tough loss than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints will get back on track here in Week 15—spoiler alert—and tart a nice win streak to end the season. Prediction: Win (9-5).
Week 16 at Dallas Cowboys - Sunday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. ET
At this point, the Saints will be 1-2 against the NFC East and only have a one-game cushion on Atlanta in their own NFC South. This will be motivation to go into Jerry World and grab a big win. Prediction: Win (10-5).
Week 17 vs. Carolina Panthers - Sunday, Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET
This Week 17 game will be important for two reasons. First, the Saints—and the NFL world in general—are going to see a really improved Panthers team here, and this will go to show that moving into 2013 the NFC South is going to be a three-dog hunt. Second, this will be the second time in 2012 that New Orleans will win three games in a row, a perfect time to build some momentum. Prediction: Win (11-5 - Playoffs, NFC South Champions).