NEW ORLEANS In April, I didn't like the way the early schedule set up for the New Orleans Saints and I like it even less now after the shocking events of Thursday night.
The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off the first upset of the NFL season, rallying to stun the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 42-27 on a night when owner Robert Kraft raised the franchise's fifth league championship banner at Gillete Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
So how does that game affect the Saints?
Well, six days after facing the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, the Saints will play host to the Patriots at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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The Saints will be operating on a short work week coming off the Vikings' game.
The Patriots will be coming off a mini-bye, totally refreshed and supremely motivated by Gen. Bill Belichick to correct a dreadful wrong.
For the Patriots, the Saints game can't come soon enough. Belichick won't be happy with his team blowing a 27-21 lead entering the fourth quarter and yielding the most points (42) and yards (537) under his watch while struggling on offense under quarterback Tom Brady and a suddenly depleted wide receiver corps.
I suspect Thursday night's uninspired performance on a national stage will provide Belichick with plenty of valuable teaching moments in the coming days, both for him and his team. I also suspect Brady will be primed to quiet the pundits/critics who rush to judgment and suggest he's over-the-hill at age 40.
So what about the Saints?
Well, the first month of their schedule remains daunting: at Minnesota, New England, at Carolina and versus Miami in London.
How they fare in these first four games likely will determine the path of their season. In the six years they've missed the playoffs in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era, they've opened 0-4, 1-2, 0-4, 1-3, 0-3 and 0-3. In the five years they've made the playoffs, they've started no worse than 3-1, including 13-0 in their Super Bowl XLIV championship season of 2009.
"It's by no means a cakewalk early on for us,'' veteran Saints right tackle Zach Strief acknowledged. "So we've gotta be ready (coming) out of the gate. But at the end of the day, we have been unsuccessful early in the season for three years now.''
In fact, the Saints have not been above the .500 mark at any point during the past three seasons -- 48 games and counting.
A win against the Vikings on Monday night would end that futility streak.
A loss at Minnesota would put the Black and Gold in an early must-win situation against a dangerous, red-faced 0-1 New England team.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium; Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Monday, 6:10 p.m.
Radio: WWL 870 AM, 105.3 FM