If you've ever been in a fist-fight during your life, then you're probably vaguely familiar with the term "sucker punched". Yesterday, the New Orleans Saints got "sucker punched" by the folks that put together the season schedules up at the NFL offices in New York City.
And if the Saints have any hope whatsoever of breaking a 3-year's streak worth of 7-9 losing seasons and missing the NFL Playoffs, they'll have to overcome a tough stretch of games that they must immediately find a way to navigate when they begin the first quarter (first 4 games) of their 2017 season schedule.
If you're a Saints fan reading this, then you already know that the Saints during the Sean Payton / Drew Brees Era, haven't been successful unless they get off to a "good start" to begin a season.
A 1-3 start in 2014, an 0-4 start in 2015, and a 1-3 start last year is evidence of that fact.
Which is exactly why the revelation of the Saints' brand new schedule yesterday didn't do the Saints organization any type of favors.
The Saints will begin the 2017 campaign first with a trip up north to face the always-tough Minnesota Vikings on ESPN Monday Night Football, before following that up with a game 6 days later when they return home to host the defending World Champion New England Patriots.
Having to match-up right off the bat against the top-notch Vikings defense in their own building is bad enough; but then having to turn right around and face living-legend coach / QB duo Bill Belicheck and Tom Brady almost seems unfair somehow.
And adding to the unfairness of it all: the Patriots will come down to NOLA on a full 10 days worth of rest, after they will have hosted the Kansas City Chiefs to officially open the year on Thursday Night Football a whole week and a half before.
If all of that wasn't bad enough, the Saints then go back onto the road and travel to Charlotte, North Carolina where they'll play their first NFC South divisional game of the 2017 season when they face division rival Carolina in Week #3.
Which of course will then be followed by flying overseas to London, England to face the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium for Week #4.
Long story short: SUCKER-PUNCHED.
At least if there's any consolation, it's that the Saints will get a week off following the trip overseas, when they get a Bye Week in Week #5.
But having to face that tough stretch to begin the year is hard enough for ANY NFL team, let alone a team that hasn't had a winning season or made the Playoffs in the past 3 years.
Let's cut the crap and get right to the point in all of this: if the New Orleans Saints have any plans whatsoever of having a winning season and making the NFL Playoffs in 2017, then at the very least they'll have to go 2-2 in those first 4 games, to even have a remote or slight chance of pulling it off.
Anything less, especially a start similar to the one they've had the past 3 seasons, will "doom" their season before it even gets started.
The worst part perhaps is that the Saints 2017 schedule on its whole, is tough all the way through.
They'll play 4 of their last final 5 regular season games against their NFC South division rivals (Carolina, Tampa, and Atlanta twice), which includes ending the season against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Eve.
If there's any "silver lining", it's that the Saints will play 11 of their 16 regular season games inside of a domed stadium (8 at home, and 1 each at Minnesota, Detroit, and Atlanta), and what will likely be only one "cold weather" game: a Week #10 match-up at Buffalo on Nov. 12.
Additionally, the Saints will get a "mini-Bye Week" following their Thursday Night match-up at arch-rival Atlanta (and inside of their brand-spanking new stadium) on December 7th; since they'll have a full 10 days worth of rest themselves before facing the visiting New York Jets in the Superdome on December 17th.
But clearly, the Saints will have to at least break even in those first 4 games, to have even the slimmest hope for success in 2017.
You've heard it said by now that this is a "make or break" season for the New Orleans Saints in 2017.
And thanks to the wonderful folks up at the NFL offices in New York City, the Saints will have to overcome being "sucker punched" right in the face to start the season --- if they want to avoid ending up on the broken side of that equation.
Jobs will be at stake.
Maybe even coaching and playing careers.
In what will be one of the most critical years since the birth of the now soon-to-be 51 year history of the New Orleans Saints franchise, unfortunately they won't have much of a choice........