The New Orleans Saints have come so agonizingly close to reaching the Super Bowl in their last 3 consecutive Playoff appearances before getting beat in heart-breaking fashion each time, that most NFL fans from other cities have now began referring to them as a “cursed” team. Whether or not the Black and Gold is actually cursed or not, is open to debate.
However, one thing that’s certain after the official release of their 2020 NFL Season schedule last night, is that if they want another shot at making Super Bowl LV in Tampa, FL next February, they’ll first have to survive a late-season stretch that will feature 3 straight games on the road; followed by games against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and then the Minnesota Vikings — the same team that’s eliminated them in two of those three straight Playoff losses — just 5 days later on Christmas Day.
Among some of the highlights of the early part of their schedule include the 2020 Season Opener at home inside the Superdome against NFC South division rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week #1, with a match-up against 6-time Super Bowl champion and new Bucs starting QB Tom Brady and company, right out of the gate.
Tom Brady will begin his Buccaneers career against Drew Brees when the Bucs visit the Saints in Week 1.
Brees & Brady are 1st & 2nd, respectively, in passing yards in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/uw1c4P4Pwx
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 8, 2020
The very next week in Week #2, the Saints will become a part of NFL history when they travel out west to the Nevada desert and “Sin City”, to play the very first game ever in Allegiant Stadium against the Las Vegas Raiders on ESPN Monday Night Football; the first of four prime-time appearances they’ll make in 2020.
The Saints then return home to NOLA in Week #3 to host the Green Bay Packers, which will be their first game against elite-caliber Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in nearly six years (since the 2014 Season). That game also will be their 2nd straight prime-time appearance in a row, on NBC Sunday Night Football.
Drew Brees>Aaron Rodgers pic.twitter.com/ow2kmbDVnD
— 𝚆𝙳𝟺𝙻 ⚜ (@PrimeShon) May 1, 2020
Week #5 will be the 3rd of their 4 prime-time appearances, when they play once again on Monday Night Football at the Superdome against Saints QB Drew Brees‘ original NFL team and AFC West division opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers. The Bolts presumably could be led in that contest by rookie QB Justin Herbert, who appears poised to take over the reins of the team from long-time veteran QB Phillip Rivers; who left the Chargers in Free Agency after 15 seasons to play for the Indianapolis Colts.
After enjoying a week off for their Bye Week in Week #6, New Orleans will return to action in Week #7 against their division rivals the Carolina Panthers, which will be a “homecoming” of sorts for former Saints #2 back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater; who is now the Panthers’ starting QB after he left NOLA for Charlotte, North Carolina a few months ago in Free Agency.
Bridgewater went undefeated during his stint as the #Saints‘ QB1 behind an offense Sean Payton designed to protect him, but can Carolina duplicate that?
🔗: https://t.co/VNAkj2gCsO pic.twitter.com/qaKIPBRd9W
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 4, 2020
But clearly, the part of their schedule that could proverbially ‘kill’ their chances for earning a top seed in the Playoffs and another shot at the Super Bowl, will begin starting in Week #12; when they once again head out west, this time to face the Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving Weekend (Sunday, November 29th).
That game will be the first of 3 consecutive road games, which will be followed in succession by subsequent road trips to the state of Georgia and then the East Coast, against their hated arch-rivals the Atlanta Falcons (Week #13) and conference rivals the Philadelphia Eagles (Week #14).
If playing on the road for 3 straight weeks in a row isn’t daunting enough, the Saints will figuratively then go “from the frying pan into the fire” when they finally return home in Week #15 for a highly-anticipated match-up against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Then after that, the Black and Gold will only have 4 days to prepare for their next opponent, their bitter NFC / conference rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, in a nationally-televised Week #16 contest on Christmas Day (Friday, December 25th). They will then end the regular season the week after at Carolina, against the Panthers in Week #17.
That late-season stretch of games beginning in Denver, very likely could ultimately end up “making or breaking” their entire 2020 NFL Season.
While this year’s schedule isn’t the hardest or toughest one that New Orleans has ever had to face, it obviously won’t be a “walk in the park” by any means.
And while the Saints are still considered one of the League’s very best teams and definitely have enough talent on their roster to survive any obstacles that possibly might come their way, it goes without saying that how well (or not) they ultimately finish in the win-loss column will depend largely upon how they fare during that late-season stretch.
FINAL ANALYSIS AND “EARLY” 2020 SAINTS WIN-LOSS PREDICTION
While the on-going COVID-19 / caronavirus health crisis could render this entire 2020 NFL Schedule totally useless because of the possibility of cancelled games, the assumption for now is that the Saints along with the rest of the NFL’s 32 teams; will still get the opportunity to play the entire 16-game season.
With the signing of veterans safety Malcom Jenkins and WR Emmanuel Sanders in Free Agency, combined with a solid draft class that potentially could see 3 outstanding rookies (center Cesar Ruiz. linebacker Zack Baun, and TE Adam Trautman) earn significant playing time, New Orleans currently has a “loaded” roster filled with talent that has propelled them to 3 straight NFC South Division championships, and will make them a favorite to win another one this upcoming season.
That said, how well they do or don’t in that stretch of late-season games very likely will affect their eventual seeding in the Playoffs, and their path to reaching Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, next February.
The Saints have a roster that’s good enough to not only just get to the Super Bowl, but to win it outright.
But in order to end the “curse” that most NFL fans think has been placed upon the franchise, the Black and Gold will have to be at least partially successful in navigating that critical late-season stretch along the way — especially if they hope to avoid seeing their Super Bowl dreams get killed yet again — in the most heart-breaking of ways that a Saints fan could ever imagine.
“EARLY” SAINTS 2020 SEASON PREDICTION: 11 WINS, 5 LOSSES (11-5)
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius