Saints have five schedule national TV games; open season vs. Green Bay on Sept. 12 John DeShazier
The New Orleans Saints remain an inviting prime-time participant for the NFL, with five scheduled appearances for national television highlighting the 2021 schedule, including a road game against Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay on Dec. 19 and a Thanksgiving night visit to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome by Buffalo on Nov. 25.
New Orleans this year will play its first season since 2005 without quarterback Drew Brees, who retired this offseason after 15 seasons as a Saint and 20 in the NFL. Either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will emerge as the replacement for the the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards after training camp.
In the first 17-game regular season in NFL history, the Saints, who will play eight home games and nine on the road, open in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against Green Bay on Sept. 12, with the expectation that fans perhaps will be present in capacity for the 3:25 p.m. kickoff.
Based on last season's results, the early part of the schedule isn't as formidable as it was last year, when New Orleans started against Tampa Bay and new quarterback Tom Brady at home, on the road against the Raiders in their first home game at their new stadium in Las Vegas, and home against Green Bay.
This year, after opening against Green Bay and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the 2020 NFL Most Valuable Player, the Saints will begin a procession of four consecutive noon kickoffs at Carolina (Sept. 19), at New England (Sept. 26), home against the Giants (Oct. 3) and at Washington (Oct. 10). The Panthers, Patriots and Giants didn't reach the playoffs last year.
The bye for the Saints will come in Week 6, followed the next week by New Orleans' first prime-time appearance, against Seattle on Oct. 25, a Monday night road game at 7:15 p.m.
The next two nationally televised games are against Buffalo on Thanksgiving in New Orleans - the Saints' third Thanksgiving night game in the last four years - followed seven day later by another Thursday night home game, against Dallas. And after the road trip to Tampa, Fla., to face the Buccaneers in the fourth prime-time game on Dec. 19, New Orleans will finish its prime-time schedule with a Monday date against Miami in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 27.
Worth remembering: Sunday night games from Weeks 5-17 are subject to change, paving the way for the league to adjust and move an afternoon game to prime time, and the prime-time game to the afternoon.
Overall, New Orleans, which has won four consecutive NFC South Division titles, will play seven games against teams that advanced to the playoffs in 2020 - two against Tampa Bay (Oct. 31 and Dec. 19), and against Green Bay, Washington, Seattle, Tennessee (Nov. 14) and Buffalo. Seattle (NFC West), Washington (NFC East), Green Bay (NFC North), Tennessee (AFC South) and Buffalo (AFC East) were division champions last year. Tennessee became the Saints' 17th opponent when the NFL announced the added game.
The AFC divisional rotation opponent this year is the AFC East - games against New England, Buffalo, the Jets (on the road at noon on Dec. 12) and Miami; while the NFC divisional rotation opponent is the NFC East - games against the Giants, Washington, Philadelphia (on the road at noon on Nov. 21) and Dallas.
The schedule also features two back-to-back weeks of NFC South division opponents: in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, and the final two weeks of the regular season, Jan. 2 and 9, home against Carolina and away against Atlanta.
After having just five noon kickoffs last season, New Orleans will have 10 this year.