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Barry Hirstius

Look at the Saints Upcoming Schedule Shows Why They MUST Beat the Lions

Going into this Sunday's game at the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints find themselves at the critical part of their 2017 regular season schedule.

With a game next week at the historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin against the red-hot Green Bay Packers and All-World QB Aaron Rodgers looming in the distance like a psycho-killer in a horror movie on Halloween Night, the odds-makers have already marked down and circled next week's game as an "L" (for loss) on the Saints wall calendars.

Which then makes this game against the NFC North opponent Detroit Lions at the Superdome this weekend, all the more important.

A win over Detroit would give New Orleans a winning record in the regular season for the first time since 2013, as well as a much-needed conference win within the NFC for any conference tie-breaker procedures at the end of the year.

But......

If you already are marking down next Sunday's game against the Packers as a Saints loss, then it means that they MUST WIN this Sunday.

Beating the Lions first but then losing to the Packers would give the Saints a (3-3) record heading into the "soft part" of their schedule, and keep them in Playoff contention. But back-to-back losses to both Detroit and Green Bay would drop the Saints' record to (2-4) — and leave them in a "hole" that would make it a lot more difficult to climb out of, as opposed to still having a break-even record if they win first this Sunday over the Lions before losing at Green Bay.

The 2017 regular season schedule lightens up considerably for the Saints after the Packers game, with only two division games against the arch-rival and defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons as the only games that would be considered "hard ones" out of their remaining 12.

 

If you look at the Saints' remaining schedule, you can literally go down the line and see how the remaining games between the Green Bay game and their first of 2 games with Atlanta (on Thursday Night Football, December 7th) would likely play out:

 

Sunday, October 29th (at home) vs. the Chicago Bears

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Saints in this game would host the (1-4) Bears and their rookie QB, Mitchell Trubisky. The former University of North Carolina star can help lay a foundation for the next several years for the Bears franchise, but he first will have to experience some "growing pains" and then have the organization (led by former Saints executive Ryan Pace) surround him with some more weapons that they simply just don't have right now.

The Bears do have a good defense (currently ranked 6th overall), but their offense is in complete disarray thanks to a likely season-ending loss of WR Kevin White to a broken collarbone; as well as the previous struggles of veteran QB Mike Glennon in their first 4 games — which is what necessitated the switch to the rookie Trubisky to begin with.

A very winnable game for the Saints.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 90 PERCENT

 

Sunday, November 5th (at home) vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

This game of course will be the first of two meetings between the Saints and their NFC South division rivals, and as Saints fans well know: ANYTHING can happen in these divisional games, and it usually does.

That said, while the Buccaneers are (2-3); they could just as easily be (4-1) right now if their special teams wasn't such a joke. They've already gotten rid of one kicker before the season, and are about to cut veteran kicker Nick Folk after his 3 misses cost them a win last week against the Patriots.

Tampa Bay has lost their last three road games, allowing at least 26 points in all three contests; which won't bode well for them when they come to visit the Saints in this game at the Superdome in front of what could be a rollicking and sold-out venue. Nevertheless, it's STILL a division game — making this one a "toss-up".

CHANCES OF WINNING: 50 PERCENT

 

Sunday, November 12th (in Buffalo, New York) vs. the Buffalo Bills

Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News

After Buffalo appeared to be in "rebuilding" mode coming into the season, new head coach (and former Panthers defensive coordinator) Sean McDermott has emerged as an early candidate for Coach of the Year.

Despite losing both of his starting CB's (Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby) in Free Agency, McDermott has his (3-2) Bills tied atop the AFC East with three impressive wins.

Still, the Bills have struggled at times. While their always tough defense has helped carry the team on their back, their 29th-ranked offense (including the 31st-ranked passing offense) has made them more of a Playoff "pretender" than a contender. If the Saints bring their "A-game" to upstate New York, they can leave with a victory.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 60 PERCENT

 

Sunday, November 19th (at home) vs. the Washington Redskins

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins like the Saints are (2-2) and are coming fresh off of their bye week, but their last outing saw them fall to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football by a final score of 29-20.

However, the Redskins have had the Saints' number in recent meetings (including a 47-14 blow-out win over the Saints in 2015 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland), and feature All-Pro QB Kirk Cousins — who "sliced and diced" the Saints defense in that 2015 game.

Nevertheless, this is a game that the Saints should have the home-field advantage in; and as long as the Saints defense can limit the damage done by Cousins, it should be at the worst, a "winnable" game for New Orleans.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 60 PERCENT

 

Sunday, November 26th (at Los Angles, California) vs. the Los Angeles Rams

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

The (3-2) Rams have played a lot better than anybody ever expected this season, and they've (unbelievably) scored the 2nd-most points in the League (behind only undefeated Kansas City) thanks to brand new head coach Sean McVay's offensive scheme.

They have a young core of play-makers in quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods; and of course: their always top-notch defense led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald

The Rams ALWAYS play the Saints "tough" — and New Orleans will have to be firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively on this particular day, to leave the West Coast and sunny L.A. with a win.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 50 PERCENT

 

Sunday, December 3rd (at home) vs. the Carolina Panthers

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Saints of course beat the (4-2) Panthers back in Week #3 in Charlotte, North Carolina by a score of 34-13, in a game where they dominated them on both sides of the football.

The Panthers are coming off a loss last night on Thursday Night Football to the Philadelphia Eagles, but still are a team that looks like they (like the Saints) will remain in Playoff contention for the remainder of the year within the ultra-competitive NFC South division.

As always, this will be another critical divisional game for the Saints; and they'll have to be focused solely on winning this game at home in front of their fans at the Superdome, before turning their focus on a short week just 3 days later, against the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday Night Football.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 50 PERCENT

 

So as you can see, EVERY SINGLE GAME between next week's contest at Green Bay and that first of 2 "showdowns" against the Falcons in Atlanta on Thursday Night Football on December 7th; are what you could consider to be "winnable" games for the Saints.

Realistically?

The Saints could find themselves with a (7-5) record by then; with the possibility even of an (8-4) record IF they continue playing the way that they have in their past 2 games, beating Carolina and Miami in back-to-back weeks by 20 points (plus), each time.

After the first meeting against Atlanta, the Saints host the (currently 3-2) New York Jets at home in the "sandwich game" — because it's "sandwiched" between the 2 games that they have to play against Atlanta twice in a 3-week period.

Photo courtesy of The New York Daily News

Before they host the Falcons the following week at home in New Orleans on December 24th (Christmas Eve), the Saints will first have to be sure to not overlook the Jets; and although the Jets aren't an "easy out" this year, it certainly will be another winnable game inside of the Superdome.

The Saints will then close out their schedule at Tampa Bay on December 31st (New Year's Eve), with the likelihood of the Saints needing to win that game to even make the Playoffs, being a distinct possibility.

For New Orleans, their chance at making the Playoffs will come down to consistency, and not doing anything to beat THEMSELVES.

But.......

First thing's first, and that all begins with needing to win this week's game against the Lions.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

The Saints CANNOT go to Green Bay next week with a (2-3) record. If they do?

Then there's a very good chance that the Saints will leave Lambeau Field with a (2-4) record, and their shot at contending for a Playoff spot nothing more than just another broken dream —  the same broken dreams that Saints fans have been experiencing for nearly the past 4 years.

That's why this game against Detroit this Sunday just might be THE MOST IMPORTANT game, of the entire Saints 2017 regular season schedule.........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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