We of course have to start at the top here at Doc’s with our 2010 team-by-team NFL schedule analysis, so today we give you the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
Oddsmakers at BetUS have listed the Saints as +900 to win Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington next February; just the Colts at +800 have shorter NFL futures odds.
Recent history doesn’t suggest a repeat is likely, as only the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have won back-to-back Super Bowls since 1995. Only the Pats, who won their last title in 2005, have even been back to the big game in back-to-back years this decade.
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The major books have not yet released ‘over/under’ win totals for NFL teams, but I will give you an estimated number and my recommendation.
Here’s the 2010 New Orleans Saints schedule (all times Eastern):
Sept. 9 Minnesota at New Orleans (8:30 PM)
Sept. 20 New Orleans at San Francisco (8:30 PM)
Sept. 26 Atlanta at New Orleans (1:00 PM)
Oct. 3 Carolina at New Orleans (1:00 PM)
Oct. 10 New Orleans at Arizona (4:05 PM)
Oct. 17 New Orleans at Tampa Bay (1:00 PM)
Oct. 24 Cleveland at New Orleans (1:00 PM)
October 31 Pittsburgh at New Orleans (8:20 PM)
Nov. 7 New Orleans at Carolina (1:00 PM)
Nov. 21 Seattle at New Orleans (4:05 PM)
Nov. 25 New Orleans at Dallas (4:15 PM)
Dec. 5 New Orleans at Cincinnati (1:00 PM)
Dec. 12 St. Louis at New Orleans (4:05 PM)
Dec. 19 New Orleans at Baltimore (1:00 PM)
Dec. 27 New Orleans at Atlanta (8:30 PM)
Jan. 2 Tampa Bay at New Orleans (1:00 PM)
Pretty much all of the key players are back for the Saints and they are -165 betting favorites to win the NFC South, but no team since that division has been created in 2002 has won back-to-back titles. New Orleans remains a media darling this season with a club-record five primetime games: four at night and the franchise’s first Thanksgiving Day game, coming at Dallas.
Overall this schedule looks very manageable as it ranks just 27th in strength of schedule with a cumulative opponents’ record of 120-136. I still wouldn’t expect another 13-win regular season for New Orleans, however. There are only five games against 2009 playoff teams, although four of those come on the road. Outside of their divisional games, the Saints also face teams in the AFC North and NFC West, that latter division probably to be the worst in football again.
Of course, the Saints as the defending champions will host the NFL season opener on Thursday night, Sept. 9, in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings – that’s the Saints’ lone home game vs. a playoff foe from last year. New Orleans already has opened as a seven-point favorite in that one, although that number would certainly change if by some miracle Brett Favre isn’t Minnesota’s quarterback.
That Week 2 game with the Niners represents the first back-to-back primetime games for the Saints and seems a sure letdown after facing the Vikings in front of the home crowd. However, New Orleans has won the past five against San Francisco. Following that one, the Saints should be able to go on a roll as they probably will be favored at home against the Falcons and Panthers as well as at Arizona, at Tampa Bay and home again to the Browns.
That back-to-back against Pittsburgh and then at Carolina will be a challenge but at least the bye then arrives at a good time. A win over Seattle should be a given before the Saints visit Dallas, the first team to beat New Orleans last year and in pretty dominating fashion. Being as that game is such a quick turnaround, that hugely favors Dallas at home.
December is notable in that New Orleans plays in two cold weather cities in Baltimore and Cincinnati, and the Saints never fare very well in cold weather games. That matchup with the Falcons could be for the division, and New Orleans has won seven of eight against Atlanta. The Bucs figure to be well out of playoff contention in that regular season finale, but who knows if the game means anything to New Orleans, which lost to Tampa Bay in such a scenario at the end of last season.
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This looks like a 10-6 record to me, and I expect the books to have the Saints’ total at 10.5 so I would go ‘under’. Just about everything went right for New Orleans last year, and it’s probably unrealistic to expect Darren Sharper to play at such a high level again. The defense will be a problem again in 2010. I would expect New Orleans to edge the Falcons for the division but don’t see the Saints winning the NFC again.