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Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

NEW ORLEANS The Saints won't have to wait long to see if they've got a chance at returning to the top of the NFC South.

New Orleans will host Atlanta on Sept. 8, opening weekend, the first time the Saints have played a divisional opponent in the first game since 2008. The Saints haven't opened against Atlanta since 1986.

The Saints have won four of the past five and 11 of 14 against Atlanta since 2006.

In all, New Orleans plays two home back-to-backs and three road back-to-backs. Seven games are set to be afternoon or national broadcasts, with kickoffs slated for 3 p.m. or later. And the Saints play four night games, two at home and two on the road.

After Atlanta, the Saints travel to Tampa for a 3:05 p.m. divisional game against the Bucs. Two home games follow, with a noon kickoff on Sept. 22 against Arizona before hosting Miami on Monday Night Football on Sept. 30.

That night game will be New Orleans' first regular season home game against the Dolphins since Oct. 15, 1995. New Orleans hosted the Dolphins in Tiger Stadium in 2005.

New Orleans then gets a bit of luck, playing at Chicago on Oct. 6, keeping the Saints out of the cold weather. The Saints won't have to call on their winter playing experience in Chicago after having played there three times in December or later, including the 2006 NFC championship game.

It also will be a reunion of sorts; offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and offensive coach Aaron Kromer both changed addresses this offseason, moving from New Orleans to the Windy City.

And then the big one. The Saints likely saw this one coming. The NFL schedule-makers put New Orleans in New England on Oct. 13, the same week Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could tie Drew Brees' consecutive games with a touchdown pass. That game is set for 3:25 p.m.

Brees broke Johnny Unitas' record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass last season on a Sunday night game against San Diego, the team that drafted him out of Purdue.

New Orleans gets a bye after that game before hosting Buffalo on Oct. 27 at noon. The Saints travel back to the Northeast the following week, playing at MetLife Stadium for the second year in a row. This time, they'll be matched with the Jets, a game pitting new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan against his brother, New York head coach Rex Ryan.

And then the gauntlet hits.

New Orleans plays three of the next four games at night, beginning with a Nov. 10 Sunday night game against Dallas. The Saints have played the Cowboys three times since 2009, going 2-1 in those contests. New Orleans last hosted Dallas in 2009, the Cowboys delivering the Saints' first loss of the season on their way to the franchise's first Super Bowl.

After that, New Orleans hosts San Francisco for the second season in a row and, like last season, it'll come at 3:25 p.m. The 49ers won last year's game 31-21 on their way to a Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. San Francisco will be a favorite to make the playoffs and possibly get back to the Super Bowl in 2013.

New Orleans once again will follow an afternoon game against San Francisco with a Thursday night game at Atlanta on Nov. 21. A week later, the Saints head to Seattle for a Monday night game on Dec. 2.

The Saints close December with four consecutive no one games, beginning on Dec. 8 at home against Carolina. The next two seeks take the Saints to St. Louis on Dec. 15 and Carolina on Dec. 22 before the season concludes at home against Tampa Bay.

Week 1Sunday, Sept. 8Atlanta Falcons12 p.m.
Week 2Sunday, Sept. 15@Tampa Bay Buccaneers3:05 p.m.
Week 3Sunday, Sept. 22Arizona Cardinals12 p.m.
Week 4Monday, Sept. 30Miami Dolphins7:40 p.m.
Week 5Sunday, Oct. 6@Chicago12 p.m.
Week 6Sunday, Oct. 13@New England Patriots3:25 p.m.
Week 7Sunday, Oct. 20Bye
Week 8Sunday, Oct. 27Buffalo12 p.m.
Week 9Sunday, Nov. 3@New York Jets12 p.m.
Week 10Sunday, Nov. 10Dallas Cowboys7:30 p.m.
Week 11Sunday, Nov. 17San Francisco 49ers3:25 p.m.
Week 12Thursday, Nov. 21@Atlanta Falcons7:25 p.m.
Week 13Monday, Dec. 2@Seattle Seahawks7:40 p.m.
Week 14Sunday, Dec. 8Carolina Panthers12 p.m.
Week 15Sunday, Dec. 15@St. Louis Rams12 p.m.
Week 16Sunday, Dec. 22@Carolina Panthers12 p.m.
Week 17Sunday, Dec. 29Tampa Bay Buccaneers12 p.m.
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