Will Saints open at Lambeau Field?

No matter what happens with the labor situation, the NFL plans to announce its 2011 regular-season schedule in the same way and at the same time we’re used to.

In a media conference call to advance next week’s league meeting Wednesday morning, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league will release the schedule sometime in mid-April. An exact date hasn’t been set.

But there’s one thing about this that could be very interesting from an NFC South perspective and we may not have to wait until April for an answer. At times, the NFL has gone ahead and announced the prime-time games for the opening week at the spring meeting. If that happens again, we could have some excitement in what’s been an otherwise dull offseason.

The Green Bay Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions, which means they’ll get the Thursday night season opener at Lambeau Field. If you look at Green Bay’s list of home opponents, there really are only two, maybe three, marquee games.

The New Orleans Saints are scheduled to play in Green Bay this year. It would be more than logical to pair the last two Super Bowl champions to open the season. The only other real strong competitor for this game would be the Chicago Bears and that would be a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game.

We’ll throw in one long shot. That’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also are slated to play at Lambeau this year. The Bucs were 10-6 last season and have some promising young stars like Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. I’m thinking Tampa Bay will get at least one prime-time game this year and it will probably be on the road because the league probably doesn’t want to showcase a half-empty Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs would provide a decent opening opponent for the Packers, but money and television ratings talk and the Saints or Bears probably would be a more logical fit for this game.