New Orleans Saints schedule analysis

Breakdown: In general, the New Orleans Saints' schedule is fairly manageable. Their strength of schedule is tied for 23rd in the NFL, and they don’t face the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos or New England Patriots. However, the Saints probably would have drawn things up a little differently if they could have written their own weekly lineup.

The Saints had better win on the road early in the season. Their first four road games are arguably the four easiest -- at Atlanta in Week 1, at Cleveland in Week 2, at Dallas in Week 4 and at Detroit in Week 7 following a bye.

The Saints need to go at least 3-1 over that stretch. They should really start out 6-2 or 7-1 overall if they want to contend for a top seed in the NFC. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch with a Thursday night game at Carolina in Week 9 and road trips at Pittsburgh in Week 13, at Chicago in Week 15 and at Tampa Bay in Week 17.

Complaint department: The Thursday night game at Carolina marks the third straight year the Saints have to face a division rival on the road on a Thursday night. And that’s the toughest challenge for teams all season. They’d much rather play at home during those short weeks.

The cold-weather games late in the year also stand out, especially playing at Chicago on a Monday night in late December. But some cold-weather games were inevitable with the Saints' road schedule this year since they're traveling north so often. At least they get to avoid the boiling-hot weather by playing at Tampa in Week 17.

Prime-time players: One other complaint -- only two of the Saints' five prime-time games are at home. You can pretty much chalk up a prime-time game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as a victory for the Saints. They've won 13 consecutive home night games, and 16 of their last 17, by an average score of nearly 20 points per game dating back to 2008.

So that means both Green Bay on Sunday night in Week 8 and Baltimore on Monday night in Week 12 are doomed.

Strength of schedule: 23rd, .469 | Vegas over/under: 9.5

Saints Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Minnesota, 1 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, at Detroit, 1 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.

Week 9: Thursday, Oct. 30, at Carolina, 8:25 p.m.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Monday, Nov. 24, Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Carolina, 1 p.m.

Week 15: Monday, Dec. 15, at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Atlanta, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.