Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.
Sean Payton returns to the New Orleans Saints after his team went through a tortuous 2012 season. He has his sights set on a return to the postseason this fall. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.
New Orleans Saints 2013 Schedule:
Week 1: Atlanta
Week 2: at Tampa Bay
Week 3: Arizona
Week 4: Miami (Mon.)
Week 5: at Chicago
Week 6: at New England
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Buffalo
Week 9: at New York Jets
Week 10: Dallas
Week 11: San Francisco
Week 12: at Atlanta (Thurs.)
Week 13: at Seattle (Mon.)
Week 14: Carolina
Week 15: at St. Louis
Week 16: at Carolina
Week 17: Tampa Bay
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Out of the Gate: There will be loads of intensity in the home season opener against arch rival Atlanta in the Superdome as Payton makes his triumphant return to the sideline. But after that, three games with Tampa Bay, Arizona and Miami shouldn't scare Drew Brees and company. A 3-1 mark to start the year is a very real possibility.
Toughest Stretch: There is an unenviable four-week stretch to end November that could decide the Saints' postseason fate. New Orleans will have back-to-back home games with the NFC postseason hopefuls Dallas and San Francisco before facing the Falcons on a short week and the Seahawks on a long one on the road. The only comfort will be the extra three days of rest between the trip to Atlanta and the trip to Seattle. From Week 11 to Week 13, the Saints could face the best three teams in the NFC.
|Swing Games:||at CHI (Week 5), DAL (Week 10)|
|Crossover Divisions:||NFC West, AFC East|
|Bye Week:||Week 7|
|Opp. 2012 W/L %:||.539 (3rd)|
|Athlon's SOS Rank:||11th|
Easiest Stretch: Both the first and last month of the regular season are fairly manageable, but the final four weeks seem like a big blessing for the Big Easy. Not only were all four teams under .500 a year ago but three of them will come in the division. A road game at the Rams will be the toughest game of the final four weeks.
Circle The Calendar: Drew Brees' consecutive game streak with a touchdown pass would be tied by Tom Brady the same week the Saints come to town in a strategically placed bout with the Patriots. Recent radio fodder from "Mayhem in the AM" only adds fuel to the Falcons-Saints fire, so both of those games are worth circling. But Payton's return to the sideline in the Superdome in the season opener against division favorite and arch rival Atlanta in Week 1 has to be the biggest date on the calendar for Who Dat nation.
Divisional Notes: The Saints have an odd divisional slate as they will start the season with two NFC South games and will finish the year with three out of four coming within the division. Playing Cam Newton twice in a three-week span in the second half of the year could be sneaky dangerous. And the massive road game at Atlanta will come on a short week between physical tests with San Francisco and Seattle.
Playoff Push: Few teams will have the opportunity to win games in the final four weeks like the Saints. Two games with Carolina and one each with St. Louis and Tampa bodes extremely well for New Orleans' push for the postseason. All three teams pose interesting challenges but combined for 26 losses a year ago and none are predicted to make the postseason in 2013.
Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Sean Payton is back to steer the Saintsâ offense, which gets a double dose of Carolina in the fantasy playoffs. Believe it or not, but the Panthers were top five against fantasy WRs last season. If this holds up again, it could be good news for Jimmy Graham owners, as Carolina didnât perform nearly as well (23rd) against TEs. The Rams also were a top-10 fantasy defense against WRs last season.
2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:
|AFC East||AFC North||AFC South||AFC West|
|Miami (6/25)||Cincinnati||Indianapolis||Kansas City|
|New England (6/26)||Cleveland||Jacksonville||Oakland (6/28)|
|NY Jets (6/27)||Pittsburgh (7/1)||Tennessee (7/3)||San Diego (7/2)|
|NFC East||NFC North||NFC South||NFC West|
|NY Giants (6/25)||Detroit||Carolina||St. Louis (6/27)|
|Philadelphia (6/26)||Green Bay||New Orleans||San Francisco (6/28)|
|Washington (7/3)||Minnesota||Tampa Bay (7/2)||Seattle (7/1)|
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