A couple words come to mind when taking a glance at the 2018 New Orleans Saints schedule, released Thursday by the NFL.
One is strange and another is deceiving.
For starters, the Saints are actually playing a home game on a Thursday night. To refresh your memory, six of the last seven — and eight of the last 10 — Thursday games were on the road.
Did someone at NFL headquarters fall down and suffered a concussion recently? I was beginning to think a home game wasn’t even a possibility.
Yes, the Saints will be entertaining the hated Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving night. That’s going to be weird. It’s going to take a long time to fully comprehend all the angles in play with that matchup.
Of course, just when you start to feel good about finally getting a Thursday game at home, you quickly notice that it’s the first of two straight Thursday night games for the Saints.
Did the Saints join the Sun Belt or the MAC in the offseason? What’s the deal with back-to-back midweek games?
Then you notice the Thanksgiving night game is four days after playing the defending Super Bowl champions.
At least they’re both at home and at least the second Thursday game is in the region at Dallas.
I suppose the cool thing about this schedule for season-ticket holders is the marquee home games on it. New Orleans will host Washington (on "Monday Night Football" no less), the Rams, the Eagles and the Steelers, in addition to the division foes.
That’s a pretty spicy home slate, folks.
NFL analysts are going to spend the offseason telling you how difficult this schedule is, and it appears they’ll be correct. But it’s likely even more difficult than most of them realize.
That’s what history tells us anyway.
The thing I dislike most about this schedule isn’t the back-to-back Thursday games, preceded by Philadelphia.
No, the worst aspect of it is five of the first eight games are against franchises that flat-out own the Saints.
Yes, that “easy” game two against Cleveland may not be easy. The Browns own the Saints — make it 13-4 over the years — and yes, that includes some really poor Browns teams beating some pretty good New Orleans squads.
It just can’t be explained, but it’s true.
The Redskins own the Saints too. Yes, I know New Orleans enjoyed a miracle comeback over Washington last season, but that’s the point. The Saints may not have gotten crushed like the previous two meetings, but it took a miracle for a very good Saints team to beat a mediocre Redskins club at home.
The week five Washington game is then followed by the Ravens, then the Vikings on the road and then the Rams at home.
Are you kidding me? That’s four consecutive games against teams that own the Saints.
New Orleans has beaten Baltimore once, but most of the other games are just bloodbaths. Even in preseason, the Saints can’t beat Baltimore. The Ravens are 5-1 against New Orleans in the regular season and 4-0 in preseason games. It's amazing.
I’m not even going to comment on another game at Minnesota.
As for the Rams, they appear to be loaded and have defeated New Orleans three of the last four meetings.
Fortunately, there are teams the Saints own as well, including Tampa Bay twice, the Bengals and the Steelers.
Hopefully another solid draft can make it easier than it appears, but at first glance the 2018 schedule looks to be more challenging than the average fan realizes.
On the flip side, it has a chance — because of all of these issues — to be the most satisfying regular season in franchise history.