Saints could land another opening game

It looks like there’s at least a chance the New Orleans Saints could be playing in the season’s first game for the third straight year.

As the defending champion Super Bowl champion, the New York Giants will host the Thursday night opener at MetLife Stadium. That game will be played Sept. 6.

I’m just looking at the eight teams the Giants are scheduled to host in 2012 and the Saints look like one of the three leading candidates, along with Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The league doesn’t usually schedule division opponents in the opener.

You also can probably scratch the Buccaneers and Browns from the list since they’re not marquee teams. Green Bay and Pittsburgh each have national followings and the Giants and Packers could be paired in a rematch of the playoff game in which New York went into Lambeau Field and defeated the Packers.

But don’t count out the Saints. They also draw strong television ratings and they played the Thursday night opening game at Green Bay in 2011 and hosted it against Minnesota in 2010.