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Seth: The Good, Bad, & Ugly from the Saints 2017 schedule

Seth throws the challenge flag at some of the NFL's scheduling decisions

Seth Dunlap
April 20, 2017 - 6:33 pm

Every year the NFL schedule release is like an early Christmas for football fans.  Commissioner Roger Goodell slides down the chimney and puts 16 presents under our offseason tree, inviting dreams of Lombardi trophies to dance in our heads.

Yet, like any infamous Christmas gift (socks again ma’, really?), some of the presents are bound to disappoint.   Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from the Saints 2017 schedule as we unwrap all 16 games tonight.

The Good

  • The Saints kick off 2017 on Monday Night Football.  What a better way to get the season started, and it’s sure to be an extra special night as it falls on the anniversary of September 11th.
  • There’s only one (1!) two game road trip the entire season, and it comes early in weeks three (@ Panthers) and four (@ Dolphins). Plus, the second half of that trip isn’t even a true road game as it’s against the Dolphins in London.
  • The ‘mini-bye’, the period teams refer to after the mandatory Thursday Night game, happens late.  So even though the bye week is early (see Bad below), you recoup that a little bit with 10 days off in December.
  • The second half of the schedule, especially in November, is extremely favorable.  The Saints get Washington (Nov. 19), Panthers (Dec. 3), and Jets (Dec. 17) at home and face the Bills (Nov. 12), Rams (Nov.26) on the road.

The Bad

  • The Saints get the dreaded early bye, in week five after their trip to London.  The research on the effect of an early bye is sparse but player and coaches are nearly unanimous in saying they’d prefer a late bye if they had their choice as a way to recharge for the final stretch of a playoff push.
  • The opening four weeks are absolutely brutal, and the Saints may be underdogs in each game.  Even with the Vikings’ struggles late last season, they proved that their new palace in Minneapolis has the potential to be a true house of horrors for opponents.  Then you get the Patriots, and Brandin Cooks’ return to New Orleans. Then it’s off to Carolina and London to play the Dolphins.  A 2-2 start would actually be promising.
  • There’s only one home game the first five weeks of the season. By the time the Saints return home in week six they could be 1-3, or worse, with fans ready to bring out the torches and pitchforks.

The Ugly

  • Without factoring in possible flex scheduling, the Saints are noticeably absent from the national spotlight this year.  With the exception of the home opener, they only other time they play on national TV is on the mandatory Thursday night game in week 14 against the Falcons.  Oh, and that Thursday game is on the road for the second consecutive year.   Apparently the NFL’s broadcast partners don’t think the Saints move the needle outside of the Gulf South anymore.
  • The Saints will finish on the road for the fourth consecutive season.  Not since 2013, a game in the Dome against the Buccaneers, has the team finished the season in New Orleans.  This type of scheduling imbalance is a problem for the NFL.   But if you think the Saints have it bad, consider this; the Bengals will open the season at home, ending a seven (!) straight seasons of opening the season on the road.   What in the world is going on in the NFL scheduling offices?
  • This is a little sports media-nerdy, but the way the league handled this schedule release is bizarre.  Today's media landscape is dominated by social media, blogs, and sports talk show hosts itching to get information out to the public early (guilty as charged).  Why they would promote this huge official release show at 8:00pm EST is outdated, especially when you are giving individual teams their own schedules in advance.  What happens then?  Those teams end up leaking incomplete pieces of the schedule to the media, leading to confusion among fans and journalists.
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