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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Three-game road trips not a favor

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

We touched on the subject a bit in Tuesday night’s analysis of the 2011 schedule for NFC South teams, but we need to touch on it a bit more.

The NFL didn’t do the Carolina Panthers or the New Orleans Saints any big favors. Carolina and New Orleans are two of seven NFL teams that got hit with the rare burden of playing three consecutive games on the road.

The Panthers take their hit in Weeks 11 through 13 when they play at Detroit, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. Say what you want about the Lions, but I see them as a team on the rise. The Bucs already have made a big part of their rise and the Colts have Peyton Manning. Nothing’s going to be easy for a team coming off a 2-14 season, but this stretch will be particularly rough.

The Saints get their stretch earlier, in Weeks 4 through 6. They go to Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Yeah, the Saints had a better record than all three of those teams last season and New Orleans should remain pretty strong.

But they’ve got to open with a game at Green Bay before home games with Chicago and Houston. That start is challenging enough. When you follow that up with three road games, all in outdoor venues that could be pretty hot, the way the schedule falls could end up costing the Saints a game they, at least theoretically, should win.