METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints’ 2022 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Thursday.
The season will kick off Thursday, Sept. 8, with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium. ESPN opens its schedule with Monday Night Football on Sept. 12 featuring the Denver Broncos at the Seattle Seahawks.
The NFL expanded to 17 regular-season games last season, and the final regular-season games will be played Jan. 8, 2023. The playoffs begin Jan. 14 and continue through Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
Here’s what’s in store for the Saints:
Sept. 11: at Atlanta
Sept. 18: vs. Tampa Bay
Sept. 25: at Carolina
Oct. 2: vs. Minnesota (in London)
Oct. 9: vs. Seattle
Oct. 16: vs. Cincinnati
Oct. 20: at Arizona (TNF)
Oct. 30: vs. Las Vegas
Nov. 7: vs. Baltimore (MNF)
Nov. 13: at Pittsburgh
Nov. 20: vs. LA Rams
Nov. 27: at San Francisco
Dec. 5: at Tampa Bay (MNF)
Dec. 11: Bye
Dec. 18: vs. Atlanta
Dec. 24: at Cleveland (Sat)
Jan. 1: at Philadelphia
Jan. 8: vs. Carolina
Strength of schedule: T-7th, .528
The Saints obviously didn’t get to write their own road map. Not only are they tied for seventh in strength of schedule difficulty, but the first things I look for are potential bad-weather games; short travel weeks; and whether the Thursday game is home or away. New Orleans went 0-for-3. Playing at the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, respectively, could be challenging. Playing at the Arizona Cardinals on a Thursday will definitely produce some jet lag (not to mention “hosting” the Minnesota Vikings in London in Week 4 without a bye afterward). The Saints also have to travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week. None of that is insurmountable, though. Getting off to a fast start with three straight NFC South games will be critical.
The Saints have to travel to Philly for a third straight year. And this time, they have to figure out how to stop quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ run game for a change – especially if weather conditions are nasty. The Saints have the NFL’s best run defense since 2017 (allowing just 94.1 rushing yards per game). But their worst two performances by far in that span came in losses at Philadelphia in 2020 and 2021 (allowing 246 and 242 yards, respectively). Last season's game wound up deciding a playoff spot. That could easily be the case again this season.
What the oddsmakers think
The oddsmakers are skeptical the Saints can overcome the loss of coach Sean Payton, setting their win total at 7.5. That’s too low, considering they went 9-8 last year despite setting an NFL record with 58 starters used. Getting quarterback Jameis Winston and star wideout Michael Thomas back healthy and adding first-round pick Chris Olave will revive the offense.
The Saints will start 3-1. And they’ll finish 3-1 down the stretch — taking advantage of a rare December bye to heal up and peak at the right time while earning their way back into the playoffs.