Breaking down the Saints' 2013 schedule - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Breaking down the Saints' 2013 schedule

New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints

New Orleans, La. - Based on 2012 records, the Saints have the third toughest schedule in the league but the ebb and flow of the lineup has some advantages.  Let's break it down:

Weeks 1-4:

Opening against the Falcons will not be an easy task but should provide ample motivation for a team which has lost its' last two season openers (at Green Bay in 2011 and hosting Washington in 2012.)

Ensuing games at Tampa Bay and home against the Cardinals and Dolphins should provide time to get the team clicking on all cylinders as the offense gets readjusted to life with Sean Payton and the defense learns the finer points of Rob Ryan's defense.

Weeks 5-9:

Consecutive trips to Chicago and New England should provide quite the test for the Saints but the silver lining is that neither of these road trips will be in cold weather.

The bye week again falls in mid-October.  While Sean Payton traditionally prefers to have the bye week fall later in the season, a week of rest after two tough road games should be welcome.

The black and gold will be done with their AFC East opponents after hosting the Bills and traveling to face the Jets.  Again, don't underestimate the importance of being done with New York before it gets cold.

The Saints need to be at full strength at this point because...

Weeks 10-13:

This is the stretch that will make or break the Saints.  The Saints had a 14-game winning streak in the month of November before losing to the 49ers in 2012.  If they can make it out of this November undefeated, it will be cause for great optimism.

Three primetime games starting with the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.  Just like in 2012, 2013 will feature a Sunday afternoon game hosting the 49ers followed by a Thursday night game in Atlanta.

The last game of this stretch falls in December but will be just as pivotal to the playoff scene as the November games as the Saints return to Seattle where the last trip resulted in a playoff dismissal in January 2011.  Don't think for a second that the 41-36 loss to a 7-9 team won't be motivation for Sean Payton's team.

Weeks 14-17:

This segment has two unique features: familiarity and routine.  Two games against the Panthers in 15 days will be interesting as Carolina swept the Saints in 2012, putting up a total of 79 points.  It will be a full 14 weeks since meeting the Buccaneers but the Saints have easily broken Tampa Bay's spirits in the second-go-round the last two years.  All of these opponents could be playing for a draft pick by this point.

The routine is the fact that all four games down the stretch will be played in the noon slot, two at home, two on the road.

Conclusion: A 7-2 or 6-3 record heading into the SF-ATL-SEA murderer's row is not out of the question.  A similar stretch around the same time of year in 2012 of SF-ATL-NYG resulted in three losses.  That stretch will, in all likelihood, also define the Saints' 2013 season.

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