NEW ORLEANS At first glance, the NFL schedule makers have dealt the New Orleans Saints a potentially troubling hand to open the 2017 season.
Read ’em and weep.
▪ At Minnesota on Monday Night Football in Week 1.
▪ Defending Super Bowl champion New England at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 2.
▪ At Carolina in Week 3.
▪ Then, a trip across the pond to face the Miami Dolphins in London in Week 4.
Finally, a break in Week 5: a bye.
If the Black and Gold isn’t careful, it could be bye-bye by the time the calendar turns from September to October. Then again, the Saints could get off to a fast start (say 3-1) against four quality opponents and establish a positive tone for the rest of the season.
Time will tell.
And we have plenty of time between now and opening night against the Vikings on Sept. 11 — 141 days to be exact.
Before I go out on a limb and make a fool of myself with MOCK SCHEDULE 01, here are a few way-too-early observations:
▪ There appears to be only one road game where weather could play a factor — at Tampa Bay to end the regular season on New Year’s Eve afternoon. Maybe at Buffalo in Upstate New York in Week 10 on Nov. 13 — a Nor’easter or a freak early snowfall. But the game at Green Bay in Week 7 falls on Oct. 22 which likely negates the possibility for a frozen tundra at Lambeau Field.
▪ Three of the Saints’ first four games come on the road. If they can successfully negotiate this potentially treacherous stretch, then the rest of the schedule becomes more favorable with no back-to-back road games.
▪ Four of New Orleans’ last five games come against NFC South foes — home against Carolina in Week 13, at Atlanta on Thursday Night Football in Week 14, at home against Atlanta in Week 16 and at Tampa Bay in Week 17.
▪ Finally, the home schedule lacks punch. Other than the Patriots coming to town in Week 2 and the annual visits from the Bucs, Falcons and Panthers, the thought of hosting Detroit, Chicago, Washington and the New York Jets doesn’t move my needle.
That’s not to say the Lions, Bears, Redskins and Jets are going to be pushovers. They just lack sex appeal.
The bottom line is this: Can the Saints post enough wins to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013?
I think so.
I see 9-7, provided they go no worse than 5-3 at home and 4-4 on the road, maybe 10-6 with a sixth win at home.
Projected wins: Carolina (home), Miami (in London), Detroit (home), Chicago (home), Tampa Bay (home), at Buffalo, at Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets (home) and Atlanta (home).
Projected losses: at Minnesota, New England (home), at Green Bay, Washington (home) and once each to Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta.
They need to sweep one of their divisional foes for 4-2 inside the NFC South (maybe Tampa Bay) to reach 10 wins.
Nine wins will get them into the playoff conversation; 10 will get them into the Super Bowl LII tournament.
Hope springs eternal, especially if Saints officials can cash in on this week’s NFL draft with five picks in the first 103 slots, including two in the first round.
That’s a big if.
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.