Remember when the Saints had perhaps the best home-field advantage in the NFL at the Superdome? In 2013, they were unbeaten there on the way to a wild-card spot. In fact, for a while there they had a very long home winning streak under Drew Brees. I don't count the 2012 season because Coach Sean Payton was suspended all season. In 2011, the Saints were unbeaten at home and won the division.
However, last season the Superdome was a house of horrors as New Orleans was just 3-5 at home, including blowout defeats to Green Bay, Cincinnati, Carolina and Atlanta. Just one more victory there and the Saints would have won the wretched NFC South instead of missing the playoffs. New Orleans was 2-6 against the spread at home and 5-3 "over/under."
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The Saints' 2015 home schedule ranks as the second-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 winning percentage of .387 It's actually the second-easiest in the NFC South behind Tampa Bay. Obviously that division not having a team finish above .500 last season helps each team's strength of schedule.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 20 -- Buccaneers (+6.5): New Orleans opens in Arizona, while Tampa Bay hosts Tennessee, so this will be Bucs rookie QB Jameis Winston's first NFL road game, presuming he's the starter. The Saints beat the visiting Bucs in Week 3 last year, 37-31 in overtime. I know I was sweating that one out in my Survivor Pool. New Orleans rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime, and Khiry Robinson won it on an 18-yard TD run. Brees threw it 57 times, completing 35 for 371 yards and two touchdowns but also three interceptions. Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham (now in Seattle) left in the second quarter with an injury. Key trend: Saints 4-6 ATS in past 10 in series at home as a favorite of at least 6 points.
Oct. 4 -- Cowboys (pick'em): New Orleans comes off a Week 3 game in Carolina, while Dallas is home to Atlanta that week. These teams played Week 4 last season as well, this time in Dallas. The Cowboys rolled 38-17. That high-powered Saints offense had just three points through three quarters. Brees had touchdown passes to Josh Hill and Graham early in the fourth quarter to get the Saints to 31-17 before the Cowboys pulled away. Brees had just 84 yards with an interception while Dallas was building a 24-0 halftime lead. Key trend: Decent chance the Saints are dogs here on the closing line, and they are 4-5-1 ATS in the past at home as a dog.
Oct. 15 -- Falcons (+3.5): This is a Thursday night game. The Saints are off a trip to Philadelphia, while the Falcons host Washington in Week 5. New Orleans lost to visiting Atlanta 30-14 in Week 16 last year, which eliminated the Saints from playoff contention. Graham had a crucial fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter at the Atlanta goal line and the Saints down 20-7. The Saints committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter in their fifth straight loss at home at the time. Brees finished 30 of 47 for 313 yards and one touchdown but was sacked five times and had a fumble returned for a score. Key trend: Saints 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home vs. Falcons as a favorite.
Nov. 1 -- Giants (+2): New Orleans comes off a trip to Indianapolis in Week 7. The Giants host Dallas the previous Sunday. Last meeting between Saints and Giants was a New York 52-27 home blowout in December 2012. It's the Giants' first trip to the Big Easy since 2011. Key trend: Saints 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
Nov. 8 -- Titans (+7): Last home game for a while for New Orleans as in Week 10 it's at Washington, Week 11 on the bye and Week 12 in Houston. Tennessee comes off a trip to Houston. Probably this will be the only time Marcus Mariota and Brees share the same field. Teams haven't met since 2011, and the Titans last visited in 2007. Key trend: Saints 4-2 ATS at home vs. AFC South.
Dec. 6 -- Panthers (+2): Carolina will have extra time to prepare here as it visits Dallas on Thursday in Week 12 (Thanksgiving). The Saints were embarrassed by the visiting Panthers in Week 14 last season 41-10. New Orleans looked totally flat, turning the ball over on two of its first three offensive plays. Brees was 29 of 49 for 235 yards and one late TD to tight end Ben Watson. Key trend: Saints just 2-8 ATS in past 10 at home vs. Panthers as a favorite.
Dec. 21 -- Lions (pick'em): This is New Orleans' only Monday night game of the season, and the Saints come off a trip to Tampa. Detroit is off a trip to St. Louis. Brees and the Lions' Matthew Stafford were two of the most successful Texas high school quarterbacks ever. The Saints visited the Lions in Week 7 last year and lost 24-23, blowing a 23-10 lead with less than four minutes left. Brees threw for 342 with two TDs and a pick. He went 10 straight passes without a completion at one point, the longest dry spell of his career. Key trend: Saints 7-3 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC North.
Dec. 27 -- Jaguars (+8): After this, New Orleans closes in Atlanta. Jacksonville hosts those Falcons in Week 15. Not much history between these clubs as they have played only five times and not since 2011. Certainly this should be one the Saints have to win for any shot at the playoffs if still in contention this late. Key trend: Saints 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home as a favorite of at least 7.5 points.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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