The New Orleans Saints are bona fide Super Bowl contenders again after they finally ended a three-year playoff drought last season. But if they’re going to make a serious run in 2018, they’d better start fast.
After being plagued by slow starts over the past four years (1-3, 0-3, 0-3 and 0-2), the Saints can’t afford a repeat with the schedule looking much more favorable in the first five weeks than the final 11.
The Saints open with back-to-back home games for the first time since 2004, and four of their first five opponents had losing records last year. On the flip side, nine of their final 11 opponents had winning records last year.
New Orleans Saints Schedule 2019
|Week 1||Sept. 9||vs Texans||7:10 p.m.|
|Week 2||Sept. 15||vs Rams||4:25 p.m.|
|Week 3||Sept. 22||vs Seahawks||4:25 p.m.|
|Week 4||Sept. 29||vs Cowboys||8:20 p.m.|
|Week 5||Oct. 6||vs Buccaneers||1 p.m.|
|Week 6||Oct. 13||vs Jaguars||1 p.m.|
|Week 7||Oct. 20||vs Bears||4:25 p.m.|
|Week 8||Oct. 27||vs Cardinals||1 p.m.|
|Week 10||Nov. 10||vs Falcons||1 p.m.|
|Week 11||Nov. 17||vs Buccaneers||1 p.m.|
|Week 12||Nov. 24||vs Panthers||1 p.m.|
|Week 13||Nov. 28 (Thurs.)||vs Falcons||8:20 p.m.|
|Week 14||Dec. 8||vs 49ers||1 p.m.|
|Week 15||Dec. 16||vs Colts||8:15 p.m.|
|Week 16||Dec. 22||vs Titans||1 p.m.|
|Week 17||Dec. 29||vs Panthers||1 p.m.|
For teams that win 13 games, the offseason is less about improvement and more to do with keeping the roster intact, and the Saints did that for the most part.
Mark Ingram is gone after eight years with the team, but it was Alvin Kamara’s backfield last year anyway. Latavius Murray should also provide some valuable depth at running back.
On defense, former Patriot Malcom Brown should help solidify the middle of the defensive line.
There will be still opportunities to upgrade the team through the draft and more before the start of training camp, but the Saints made sure they at least didn’t get any worse. With a roster full of young players who are only getting better, this should be enough to compete for a championship.
Of course, the NFC is full of high-level teams that will once again be top contenders in 2019.
The Saints have a relatively easy schedule overall (ranked No. 22 in the NFL, per John Breech of CBS Sports), but they will see a lot of their biggest competitors in the regular season between the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and more.
New Orleans will need to be ready for these challenges if it wants to remain in the title hunt.
It will be a tough road to the No. 1 seed in the NFC this season thanks to road games against the Rams, Bears and Seattle Seahawks.
New Orleans went 7-1 on the road last season, but the squad is historically better in the Superdome, with Brees especially better playing at home. In 2018, he had a 133.3 quarterback rating at home compared to a still-respectable 99.3 mark on the road.
The 40-year-old will clearly have to step up his game in Week 2 against the Rams and Week 7 against the Bears.
In Chicago, the offense will have to find a way to score against one of the toughest defenses in the league. In Los Angeles, Brees will have to outscore an offense that was impressive throughout last season.
These games will not only serve as a measuring stick for the team during the year, but they could also become tiebreakers for playoff seeding down the line.