It has been a few days since the NFL released its league-wide schedule.
We’ve had time to digest the Saints’ schedule, think about it, etc.
And this season, as much as any, provides some intriguing matchups.
There are games that won’t qualify for this (think Kansas City in Week 3) but there are more good ones that bad ones.
So, here are our 10 most-intriguing Saints games of 2012.
10. @ Oakland (Nov. 18, 3:05 p.m.)
This one has all the markings of a snoozer, really just because it’s Oakland. But don’t let recent history cloud your judgment. These might not be the Raiders of yesteryear. Al Davis’ passing has opened things up in the Bay Area. New general manager Reggie McKenzie has Green Bay roots and new coach Dennis Allen has Saints roots. It’s New Orleans’ first West Coast trip since falling in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs at San Francisco and going the Pacific isn’t the easiest trick to handle.
9. Philadelphia (Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.)
This game ends the first half of the season and could go a long way in showing just what the Saints need to do for a playoff push. Michael Vick is always a wild card and he’ll provide a sharp contrast to Peyton Manning, whom the Saints face a week earlier. Completely different preparation for back-to-back primetime matchups. Philadelphia ended last season with four straight wins and could carry over that success into 2012.
8. @ Dallas (Dec. 23, noon)
Let’s be honest – all games against Dallas are intriguing. And that it falls in late December makes it even more so. The Cowboys are known for the December swoons and last year was no different, a 1-4 finish to the season that knocked them out of the playoffs. With a tough schedule and coaching changes, the Saints could be playing for a playoff spot at this late point in the season.
7. Washington (Sept. 9, noon)
This one maybe should be higher, but it’s certainly intriguing. It’s the Saints first game with an interim interim head coach. It’s the Saints first game without a head coach, assistant head coach and general manager. And it’s the first game we’ll see the Saints likely compete without some defensive players who could be serving suspensions. Oh, and did we mention it’s likely the first career start for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III?
6. @ Carolina (Sept. 16, noon)
A week after facing the Redskins, New Orleans will take its circus on the road to Carolina. Cam Newton is a force of nature, one we haven’t seen in a long, long time. He had an amazing rookie season. He’ll likely have an even better sophomore year. This is also the first time the Saints will play a team where whose quarterback was “targeted” by the defense during the bounty days, at least according to the NFL.
5. @ Green Bay (Sept. 30, 3:15 p.m.)
This rematch from the 2011 season opener will match two of the games brightest stars in Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Last season’s game was a classic and this game could be, too. Neither team has a stellar defense (which, interestingly, led to early playoff exits in 2011 for both teams) and each offense can be lights out scary. This will be the second road test of the year for the Saints, who could be 3-0 or 2-1 by this game.
4. @ Denver (Oct. 28, 7:20 p.m.)
Let’s see: Sunday Night Football? Check. Second game of a back-to-back road trip? Check. Former Carolina head coach John Fox, a nemesis of the Saints in the past? Check. It’s going to be Joe Vitt’s first game as interim head coach coming off his six-game suspension. That could either be a boost for the team or throw them for a loop. Oh, and there’s this – it’s the first time the Saints will see quarterback Peyton Manning since New Orleans won its first-ever Super Bowl three seasons ago.
3. @ New York Giants (Dec. 9, 3:15 p.m.)
The last two times the Saints and Giants played, New Orleans ran roughshod over New York. Eli Manning was harassed throughout and the Saints came away with impressive wins. But those were in the Superdome. This one is in New York and it’s in December; the weather could be frightful. Certainly this game comes later in the season so the Giants won’t be riding high on their Super Bowl win. But the Giants are the reigning Super Bowl champions and that always ratchets up the intrigue.
2. @ Atlanta (Nov. 25, 7:20 p.m.)
Every game against the Falcons is special. You could argue that this is too high on this list but here is why we feel it’s so interesting – it comes four days after what is expected to be a tough and physical game against the 49ers. It’s Thursday night game after a Sunday afternoon one. The last time the Saints played the Falcons at night, Drew Brees set an NFL record for yards passing in a season and New Orleans was castigated for “running up the score.” If you don’t think Atlanta has a long memory, you’re wrong.
1. San Francisco (Nov. 25, 3:15 p.m.)
Was there any doubt that this would be the most-intriguing game of the season? So many reasons. The 49ers knocked the Saints out of the playoffs this past season in the best game of the postseason. Call it the Gregg Williams Derby ; the audio released by Sean Pamphilon pretty much nailed this one to the No. 1 spot. There’s little love lost between these two programs right now. We expect the Superdome to be absolutely out of control for this one.