Breakdown: After all the punishments the NFL has placed on the Saints for their bounty program, there was some fear that would continue when the schedule came out. But that didn’t come true. The Saints got four nationally televised games. They’ll host San Diego in a Sunday night game (Oct. 7) and play at Denver (Oct. 28). They’ll host Philadelphia on Nov. 5 in a Monday night game and be at Atlanta on Nov. 29 for a Thursday night game.
That’s plenty of national attention, and there will be other reasons the Saints will be an attraction throughout the season. They’re in a very unique situation with head coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire season. General manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games. Loomis will return just in time for a Nov. 11 home game with Atlanta. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt will start the season as the interim head coach but won’t coach the Saints in the regular season until the Denver game.
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is expected to step into the top role while Vitt is out, and he might be catching a bit of a break. The first six teams the Saints will face went a combined 47-49 last season. After Vitt’s return, the Saints will face teams that went a combined 84-76 last season.
Complaint department: The Saints face a potentially brutal November schedule. From Nov. 5 through Nov. 29, they’ll play five times, and not a single one of those games looks easy. The Nov. 18 game at Oakland might appear to be the easiest in that stretch, but any time you have to travel to the West Coast, it’s a challenge. The game with the Raiders is sandwiched between home games with Philadelphia and Atlanta and a home game with San Francisco on Nov. 25 that’s followed quickly by a Thursday night game at Atlanta.
Bounty Bowl: Gregg Williams is gone. First, the former New Orleans defensive coordinator left for the same job in St. Louis. Then, he got suspended indefinitely for his role as the ringleader in the bounty program. But you know Williams’ name, or at least audio tapes of his voice, are going to come up when the Saints play San Francisco. That will be a rematch of the January playoff game that was won by the 49ers. That also is the game that has become the most tangible example to most people of the bounty program. The night before that game, Williams spoke to his defenders and urged them to injure specific members of the 49ers. There’s no doubt those San Francisco players and their teammates will remember Williams’ words. That audio tape likely will get constant play that week -- in the media and in the 49ers' locker room.
Saints Regular-Season Schedule (All times ET)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Green Bay, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, San Diego, 8:20 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at Denver, 8:20 PM
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 5, Philadelphia, 8:30 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 29, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, Carolina, 1:00 PM