Saints 49ers Football

New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen watches from the sideline during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The New Orleans Saints finished 7-10 in the first season under Dennis Allen, marking the team’s first losing record since 2016. This year’s schedule, which the NFL announced Thursday night, appears to be much friendlier.

The Saints play only four teams that had a winning record last season and only one team (the Minnesota Vikings) that had double-digit wins in 2022.

There isn’t a single game on the schedule that you look at and say, “Man, that’s going to be a tough one.”

But based on how things went in Allen’s first season, you have to approach the schedule with cautious optimism. Issues such as turnovers and penalties, both headaches for the team last season, can often be the great equalizer.

With that being said, I tempered the expectations a bit while making my annual game-by-game predictions for the Saints this season.

SEPT. 10: vs. Tennessee Titans

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Titans won 23-21 in 2021

• Titans in 2022: 7-10, 2nd in AFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 27, Titans 14. The Derek Carr era begins with a bang against a Titans team still searching for their QB of the future. Their quarterbacks now consist of veteran Ryan Tannehill, 2022 draft pick Malik Willis and this year’s selection Will Levis. Best guess is Tannehill wins the job. This could be the Saints first Time facing running back Derrick Henry, assuming he doesn’t get traded. Henry missed the previous two meetings with the Saints in 2019 and 2021 because of injuries. This also will be a homecoming for Ponchatoula native and former Tulane star back Tyjae Spears. The Saints spoil the party and win their fifth straight season opener. | Record: 1-0.

Sept. 18: at Carolina Panthers

• Time: 6:15 p.m. (Monday)

• Last meeting: Panthers won 22-14 in September and 10-7 in January

• Panthers in 2022: 7-10, 2nd in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Panthers 21, Saints 16. The Saints have lost the last two Times they’ve made the trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. Now they get to face a Carolina team that likely will be the home debut for No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young. Division games are never easy and this one most certainly won’t be either as the Saints’ skid in Carolina goes to three in a row in an electric atmosphere awaiting Young’s first home start.| Record: 1-1.

Sept. 24: at Green Bay Packers

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 38-3 in 2021

• Packers in 2022: 8-9, 3rd in NFC North

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 24, Packers 20. Well, at least the tundra shouldn’t be frozen in September. The Saints make the trip to Lambeau for the Packers’ home opener, but four-Time MVP Aaron Rodgers won’t be there. He’s now in New York with the Jets while the Packers turn to Jordan Love. Winning in Green Bay isn’t easy, but the Saints ruin it for the cheeseheads. | Record: 2-1.

Oct. 1: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Bucs won 20-10 in September and 17-16 in December

• Buccaneers in 2022: 8-9, 1st in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 21, Bucs 13. In Tom Brady’s three years in Tampa, he led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in his first season and two NFC South titles the next two seasons. Expect them to take a step back this season. Baker Mayfield is expected to be the starter, and he showed signs of reviving his career last season when he was claimed off waivers by the Rams. If that version of Mayfield shows up in Tampa, the drop-off may not be as bad as you would think. But the Saints defense leads the way at home.| Record: 3-1.

Oct. 8: at New England Patriots

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 28-13 in 2021

• Patriots in 2022: 8-9, 3rd in AFC East

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Patriots 21, Saints 20. The Patriots are coming off their second losing season in three years, so the trip to Foxboro isn’t as tough as it once was. New England’s offense struggled last season, which is why the Patriots brought in a new coordinator in Bill O’Brien. I’d flip the score if this game was in New Orleans. Record: 3-2.

Oct. 15: at Houston Texans

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 30-28 in 2019

• Texans in 2022: 3-13-1, 4th in AFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 35, Texans 17. This will be just the sixth meeting between these teams. The Saints won the three games played in the Dome, but are 0-2 against the Texans at their place. Expect that to change this season against one of the worst teams in the NFL last season. The Texans drafted Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud to take over the offense, but the rookie should be overmatched by the Saints defense. | Record: 4-2.

Oct. 19: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

• Time: 7:15 p.m. (Thursday)

• Last meeting: Saints won 13-6 in 2019

• Jaguars in 2022: 9-8, 1st in AFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 31, Jaguars 28. The Jaguars are one of just four teams on the Saints' schedule that had a winning record last season. Playing on a short week makes this one tougher. Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence lost just two games in his college career at Clemson. Both were in the Superdome — one to LSU in the national championship game and the other to Ohio State a year later in the semifinals against Ohio State. The third Time isn’t the charm for Lawrence. Record: 5-2.

Oct. 29: at Indianapolis Colts

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 34-7 in 2019

• Colts in 2022: 4-12-1, 3rd in AFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 31, Colts 17. The Colts have been playing musical chairs at quarterback ever since Peyton Manning left town. They drafted Anthony Richardson from the University of Florida this year. They also signed Gardner Minshew, who struggled against the Saints last season when he started for the Philadelphia Eagles as a replacement for an injured Jalen Hurts. No matter who gets the start, the Saints should handle business. | Record: 6-2.

Nov. 5: vs. Chicago Bears

Time: Noon

Last meeting: Saints won 21-9 in playoffs of 2020 season

Bears in 2022: 3-14, 4th in NFC North

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 24, Bears 7. The Saints have won seven straight games against the Bears. The last loss came way back in 2008 in the third year of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. Don’t expect that streak to end this season. Mobile quarterbacks such as Justin Fields often give the Saints fits, but that shouldn’t be the case in this one. Make it eight in a row against the Bears. | Record: 7-2.

Nov. 12: at Minnesota Vikings

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Vikings won 28-25 in 2022

• Vikings in 2022: 13-4, first in NFC North

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Vikings 28, Saints 23. The Vikings tied with the 49ers for the second-most wins in the NFC last season, trailing only the conference champion Eagles. But they really didn’t seem as good as their record indicated. The Saints almost took them to overTime last season in London, but Wil Lutz’s potential game-tying 61-yard field goal doinked off the upright and then the cross bar. This one won’t come down to a last-second kick, but the results are the same. | Record: 7-3.

Nov. 26: at Atlanta Falcons

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 27-26 in September and 21-18 in December

• Falcons in 2022: 7-10, 4th in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Falcons 24, Saints 21. The Saints haven’t lost a game in Atlanta since the 2017 season. They needed a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback, sparked by a pair of late Jameis Winston to Michael Thomas touchdowns, to keep that streak going in last year’s season opener in Mercedes Benz Stadium. The improved Falcons, who have added first-round draft pick Bijan Robinson in the backfield, won’t let this one slip away. | Record: 7-4.

Dec. 3: vs. Detroit Lions

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Saints won 35-29 in 2020

• Lions in 2022: 9-8, 2nd in NFC North

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 28, Lions 27. This could be the most intriguing game of the season. There are plenty of story lines, especially with former Saints assistant Dan Campbell now the head coach with Aaron Glenn as his defensive coordinator. Also, former Lions RB Jamaal Williams is now a Saint. The Lions were vastly improved last season and barely missed the playoffs. This one will be entertaining. | Record: 8-4.

Dec. 10: vs. Carolina Panthers

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Panthers won 22-14 in September and 10-7 in January

• Panthers in 2022: 7-10, 2nd in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 17, Panthers 10. Saints were swept by the Panthers last season, something that hadn’t happened since the 2015 season when Cam Newton was league MVP. Some prognosticators have the Panthers winning the division this year after the strides they made in 2022. The Saints need to take care of business at home to prevent that from happening. The Saints avenge the Week 2 loss to the Panthers. | Record: 9-4.

Dec. 17: vs. New York Giants

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Giants won 27-21 in 2021

• Giants in 2022: 9-7-1, 3rd in NFC East

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 21, Giants 20. The Saints lost in overTime in the Dome two years ago the last Time these two teams met. The Giants have made giant strides since then, improving their win total by five games from the year before. They even reached the playoffs, upsetting the Vikings in the wild-card round before getting throttled by the division rival Eagles in the divisional round. The Saints defense will be tested mightily against running back Saquon Barkley and newly acquired tight end Darren Waller. Expect this one to be just as tough as the 2021 meeting, except this Time the Saints prevail. | Record: 10-4.

Dec. 21: at Los Angeles Rams

• Time: 7:15 p.m. (Thursday)

• Last meeting: Saints won 27-20 in 2022

• Rams in 2022: 5-12, 3rd in NFC West

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Rams 23, Saints 21. The Rams had a serious hangover last season after winning the Super Bowl. It didn’t help matters that receiver Cooper Kupp suffered an ankle injury and played in just nine games. The Rams still have defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and we all know how disruptive he can be. Having to travel all the way to California on a short week is too much to overcome. Rams avenge their loss from a season ago. | Record: 10-5.

Dec. 31: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Time: Noon

• Last meeting: Bucs won 20-10 in September and 17-16 in December

• Buccaneers in 2022: 8-9, 1st in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 17, Bucs 10. The Saints should still be kicking themselves after letting Tom Brady and Company off the hook last season at Raymond James Stadium. If the Saints could have held on to a late lead, they probably could have slipped into the playoffs. Instead, the Bucs won and went on to win the woeful division with an 8-9 record. Brady is gone now, so the Saints can get back to their winning ways in Tampa. The Saints had won four straight there before last season’s collapse. But five out of six isn’t too shabby. | Record: 11-5.

Jan. 6 or 7: vs. Atlanta Falcons

• Time: TBA

• Last meeting: Saints won 27-26 in September and 21-18 in December

• Falcons in 2022: 7-10, 4th in NFC South

ROD WALKER'S TAKE: Saints 17, Falcons 14. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, a former Saints executive, has plucked away his share of players from New Orleans. David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss are two of the recent additions who will have to wait until the last game of the season to return to the Dome. Assuming the Saints haven’t clinched a No. 1 seed and this is some meaningless regular-season finale, the Saints should take care of business in this one. | Record: 12-5.

There you have it.

My pre-training camp prediction has the Saints finishing 12-5. That would be a five-win improvement from a season ago.

That's a big jump, but the schedule is on their side.

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