this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Staff writers Mike Triplett and James Varney break down the New Orleans Saints' 2010 schedule: Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune With hands in the stands clasped in prayer, New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley nails a 40-yard field goal to win the ...
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Staff writers Mike Triplett and James Varney break down the New Orleans Saints' 2010 schedule:
Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune
With hands in the stands clasped in prayer, New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley nails a 40-yard field goal to win the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 24.
WEEK 1: vs Minnesota
Thursday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m., NBC
The NFL rolled the dice by making this its marquee event to kick off the season on national television. But Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre bailed out the league by deciding to put off retirement for at least one more year. This rematch of last season's epic NFC championship game might not have the same level of drama, but the crowd still will be plenty amped when the banners drop and the Saints begin their quest for a repeat.
WEEK 2 at San Francisco
Monday, Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
This looms as a very interesting early season barometer for New Orleans. The 49ers are a rising team that many forecasters believe can challenge for a Saints-like surge in 2010. They're still shaky at quarterback with Alex Smith, but they've surrounded him with some talent on offense, and they feature one of the NFL's most stout defenses. If the Saints can handle this road test early, it will be a good sign that they're on a good track.
WEEK 3 vs Atlanta
Sunday, Sept. 26, Noon, Fox
Speaking of early-season barometers, this might be the most important game of the' entire season. Atlanta appears to be the Saints' most serious threat in the NFC South, with young quarterback Matt Ryan and his wealth of offensive weapons having led the Falcons to their first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history in 2008-09. New Orleans can't afford to surrender the home field.
WEEK 4 vs Carolina
Sunday, Oct. 3, Noon, Fox
Once again, the Saints will need to take care of NFC South business on their home field early. The Panthers appear to be in rebuilding mode, having parted ways with quarterback Jake Delhomme and defensive end Julius Peppers. But they've always been a tough matchup for the Saints, and young quarterback Matt Moore is still surrounded by dangerous playmakers DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Steve Smith on offense and Jon Beason on defense.
Scott Threlkeld/The Times-Picayune
The Arizona Cardinals surely won't lose track of Reggie Bush when the teams play in Arizona this season.
WEEK 5 at Arizona
Sunday, Oct. 10, 3:05 p.m., Fox
The Cardinals took even more hits this offseason than the Panthers did -- which was especially painful in the wake of their 45-14 playoff loss to the Saints. They lost quarterback Kurt Warner to retirement, traded receiver Anquan Boldin, lost linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency and released safety Antrel Rolle. The cupboard isn't completely bare, though. They still have plenty of talent, led by All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But they'll only go as far as Derek Anderson can take them after cutting Matt Leinart on Saturday.
WEEK 6 at Tampa Bay
Sunday, Oct. 17, Noon, Fox
The Buccaneers would appear to be a non-threatening, harmless foe in the NFC South, still trying to find their footing with second-year coach Raheem Morris and second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. But they showed the Saints what can happen when you fall asleep at the wheel with a stunning overtime victory in the Superdome in Week 16 last season. The Saints need to be on their game this time.
WEEK 7 vs Cleveland
Sunday, Oct. 24, Noon, CBS
This game will be the return of beloved former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. It should also be another very winnable matchup against a Browns team that has been stuck in rebuilding mode for a while now. Cleveland's roster has been tweaked by new president Mike Holmgren, starting with an overhaul at quarterback, where he brought in veteran Jake Delhomme and young challenger Seneca Wallace.
WEEK 8 vs Pittsburgh
Sunday, Oct. 31, 7:20 p.m., NBC
The past two Super Bowl champs will collide in this tantalizing midseason matchup. This likely would have been the Week 1 kickoff game if Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hadn't gotten into off-the-field trouble, which led to a suspension. But he will be back behind center in time for this game. The Steelers fell backward and missed the playoffs last season -- a fate the Saints are trying to avoid. But they still feature an imposing defense, which is stacked with playmakers like linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu.
WEEK 9 at Carolina
Sunday, Nov. 7, Noon, Fox
Panthers quarterback Matt Moore should be even more well-seasoned by this stage of the season, and this time Carolina will have the home-field advantage.
WEEK 10 Bye
WEEK 11 vs Seattle
Sunday, Nov. 21, 3:05 p.m., Fox
Think this game might get billed as Pete Carroll vs. Reggie Bush? The former Southern Cal coach took over as Seattle's coach this season, allowing the opportunity to face many of his former stars, including Saints tailback Bush and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. They'd better be unwelcoming to Carroll, though, because if there's a "must-win" game on the Saints' schedule, this is the one. They'll be coming off the bye, well-rested at home against a rebuilding Seahawks team that doesn't look too imposing. And they'd love to get a victory heading into their quick turnaround trip to Dallas.
WEEK 12 at Dallas
Thursday, Nov. 25, 3:15 p.m., Fox
We go from perhaps the easiest game on the Saints' schedule to the toughest. Both teams will be working on short rest for this Thanksgiving game, but the Cowboys will have home-field advantage, and they're used to this annual schedule quirk. Plus, Dallas is as loaded with talent on offense and defense as any team in the NFL and proved to be an extremely difficult matchup for the Saints with a 24-17 victory in the Superdome last season. This has become quite the NFC rivalry, both on and off the field thanks to Sean Payton's friendly goading of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. How much more drama do you need?
WEEK 13 at Cincinnati
Sunday, Dec. 5, Noon, Fox
This will be a stiff challenge to kick off the stretch run, especially if the weather plays a factor. The Bengals are a solid team on both sides of the ball, led by 2009 Coach of the Year Marvin Lewis, veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and tailback Cedric Benson. They won 10 games last season to take the NFC North and upgraded at wide receiver by adding free agents Owens and Antonio Bryant.
WEEK 14 vs St. Louis
Sunday, Dec. 12, 3:05 p.m., Fox
Chances are, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford will be leading the Rams in this game. He may have his feet under him by then, but he should still be overmatched against the defending Super Bowl champs. Although the Rams did put up a pretty good fight against the Saints in St. Louis last season, they finished with an ugly 1-15 record.
WEEK 15 at Baltimore
Sunday, Dec. 19, Noon, Fox
The schedule-makers didn't do the Saints any favors by plotting a potential cold-weather game in late December. This wouldn't be an easy matchup for New Orleans in any setting. Although the Ravens' defense is aging, they're still loaded with talent, and the offense is on the rise with young quarterback Joe Flacco, young tailback Ray Rice and newly acquired receiver Anquan Boldin. Both teams should be fighting for a playoff spot at this point.
WEEK 16 at Atlanta
Monday, Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Remember what we said about the Falcons looming as the most serious challenger for the NFC South title? Seems like a Monday night road trip to Atlanta in Week 16 could be awfully important.
WEEK 17 vs Tampa Bay
Sunday, Jan. 2, Noon, Fox
Remember what we said about that unthinkable Week 16 loss at home to Tampa Bay in 2009? A Week 17 loss at home to Tampa in 2010 would be even more unthinkable -- unless of course the Saints are resting their starters