New Orleans Saints schedule analysis

Breakdown: The Saints are playing a franchise-record five nationally-televised games and the first two games will be at night. When a team wins a championship, the common saying is they become the biggest target on the schedule for every opponent and that’s probably true with the Saints.

The other nationally-televised games will be in prime time, but the Saints will play their first-ever Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas at 4:15 p.m. The Cowboys ended New Orleans’ shot at an undefeated season last year and this rematch has “huge audience’’ written all over it. So does the season opener against Minnesota, a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game and it gets even better if Brett Favre still is with the Vikings.

Complaint department: The Saints have a nicely placed bye in Week 9, but they’ll have to face the Seahawks at home after that and get ready for the Cowboys in a very short week. That’s never an ideal situation, but the Saints are used to dealing with adversity when it comes to the schedule. In recent history, they’ve had to pull off a trip to London and work their way around some hurricane warnings. December trips to Cincinnati and Baltimore might involve some cold weather.

Gift department: Sean Payton took it easy on his players last year, resting some starters late in the season. That was because the Saints had already clinched everything they could clinch. It might be a little tougher and take a little longer to do that this year, but the Saints are catching what appears to be a huge break as they host the Buccaneers in the regular-season finale.

Saints Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Thursday, Sep. 9, Minnesota, 8:30 PM

Week 2: Monday, Sep. 20, at San Francisco, 8:30 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Carolina, 1:00 PM

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Arizona, 4:05 PM

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Cleveland, 1:00 PM

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Carolina, 1:00 PM

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Seattle, 4:05 PM

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, at Dallas, 4:15 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, St. Louis, 4:05 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 27, at Atlanta, 8:30 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM