The NFL unveiled the 2014 regular season schedule last week, and the New Orleans Saints wound up in a 3-way tie for the 23rd toughest slate based on last season's records. Having already taken a look at the team's 4 September matchups, we now turn our attention to October, where the competition will most certainly be turned up a notch.
With 3 out of their first 4 games in September coming away from home, the Saints get a pair of home matchups in October, along with their week 6 BYE. Tricky road games against Detroit and Carolina are on the docket as well, with a Thursday night matchup in Charlotte immediately following what should be a tough Sunday night home matchup against the Packers.
- Week 5- Sunday October 5- Tampa Bay 12pm Fox
- Week 6- Sunday October 12- BYE
- Week 7- Sunday October 19- @Detroit 12pm Fox
- Week 8- Sunday October 26- Green Bay 7:30pm NBC
- Week 9- Thursday October 30- @Carolina 7:25 pm NFL Network
- Tampa Bay W
- @ Detroit L
- Green Bay W
- @ Carolina W
Week 5- Tampa Bay
The Saints kick off their October slate with a divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New Orleans took both of last season's games from Tampa, and while things are looking up for the Bucs with Lovie Smith now at the helm, this is a game in which the Saints should fancy their chances, especially at home. October kicks off with a Saints-Bucs matchup in the Superdome.
Sean Payton's teams struggled against Smith's Bears teams during his stint as Chicago's Head Coach. However, this is a completely different set of players and 2014 should project as a developmental and transitional year for Tampa Bay. A week 17 matchup on the road could prove to be trickier.
Week 6- OPEN
Should be a lot of fun. Saints win. Who Dat.
Week 7- @Detroit
This is the matchup that immediately jumped out at most Saints fans. It presents a difficult road trip to Detroit, where the Lions have proven they can move and score the ball at will against most opponents with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, and now Golden Tate at their disposal. There will be plenty of familiarity as new Lions coach Jim Caldwell hired former Saints Quarterbacks Coach Joe Lombardi to coordinate his offense. In addition, both Bush and Bell played for the Saints earlier in their careers.
Reggie Bush will look to show out against his former team.
This will be a big test for Rob Ryan and his defense, as the team will look to slow down Detroit's run game while attempting to contain the dangerous pass-catch duo of Stafford and Megatron. The Lions' athletic defense also poises some problems for the Saints, who should look to establish the run early and control the clock with efficient plays and drives, a key point the team hopes to improve upon and emphasize next season.
The Saints have won the last four meetings between the teams, including a 2012 wildcard playoff win in the Superdome.
Week 8- Green Bay
One prolific NFC North offense on the road, one at home in the span of seven days. Drew Brees and the Saints will welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what figures to be a high scoring matchup. The game is slated to be played in primetime on Sunday night, and should bring out the best of Who Dat Nation in the Dome.
The last time the two teams played in New Orleans turned out to be a shootout, with the Saints winning 51-29, in a thorough offensive masterclass highlighted by Deuce McAllister's franchise record-setting touchdown, which further sweetened the deal.
That was in 2008, and both teams have improved on the defensive side of the ball since, but Brees and Rodgers control their respective offenses as well as any Quarterback in the modern day game, so points should still be aplenty as these two NFC championship contenders duel in prime time. Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy, who spent 5 seasons as the Saints Offensive Coordinator earlier in his career, are two of the best playcallers in the game, while Rob Ryan and Dom Capers are two of the best in the business when it comes to defense.
Green Bay won the last meeting in September 2012, holding off a Sean Payton-less Saints team 28-27.
Week 9- @Carolina
A quick turnaround for the Saints, as they must abruptly turn their attentions to a matchup with last season's NFC South champion Carolina Panthers on the road in a Thursday night showdown. The teams split the two meetingslast season, with the Saints handling the Panthers at home only to lose on the road in week 16 in Charlotte. The Panthers narrowly pipped the Saints to the division title, and New Orleans will look to enhance their chances of re-claiming the South crown by trying to come out of Carolina with what would be a vital road win. Cam Newton and the Panthers host Drew Brees and the Saints in a Thursday night matchup week 9.
The Panthers' roster has taken a hit, as Steve Smith, long a thorn in the Saints' side, and Ted Ginn have both moved on. Brandon LaFell is now in New England, leaving Cam Newton scant options to throw to outside of the reliable Greg Olsen at Tight End.
Greg Hardy and the Panthers' defense figures to remain more than capable, with the defensive minded Ron Rivera looking to build off his first postseason appearance. The team added former Saint Roman Harper in free agency, and the familiarity between the teams should make it another interesting contest.
October sets up as a much more difficult challenge for the New Orleans Saints, but with much at stake and lofty goals on the board, the team should be up to the task. Winning in the NFL is not easy. Winning on the road is even tougher, and going to Detroit and Carolina will be difficult. The Saints should hope to split those two meetings at the very least.
Home games with Tampa and Green Bay should also call for a split in a worst case scenario. Green Bay presents a much more formidable challenge, but the Buccaneers are always game when it comes to facing the Saints. That said, our prediction for October...
If our predictions play out, this would leave New Orleans at an admirable 6-2 heading into November. The schedule only continues to pose difficult challenges moving forward, as the Saints will head into the second half of their schedule looking to cement themselves as a playoff team and championship contender. Check back soon for our November analysis.