There’s just one week left to play in the 2021 regular season, so of course some eyes are turning towards 2022 for the New Orleans Saints. And we already know most of the opponents they’ll face at home and on the road, though we’ll need the dust to settle in Week 18 before that list is set in stone. Plus, the exact dates and kickoff times and prime-time features won’t be announced until some time in April.
All but three games have matchups have already been decided in opponents and locations (barring, you know, another hurricane displacement). New Orleans will get an extra home game this season as part of the NFL’s expanded regular season, with their 17th opponent coming from the AFC West. After visiting the AFC South’s same-place finisher in 2021, they’ll host the same-ranked team in the AFC West in 2022, the AFC East representative in 2023 (on the road), and the AFC North’s equivalent in 2024 (at home again), establishing a new cycle.
We’ll get into more detail down below. Here’s what you need to know about every team (possibly) on New Orleans’ schedule for 2022:
The usual NFC South rivals
Atlanta Falcons (home and away)
Carolina Panthers (home and away)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (home and away)
As always, 6 of the 17 games on the schedule will be matchups against New Orleans’ divisional rivals. They got in some good licks against the Saints in a down year — the Panthers ran roughshod over New Orleans in Week 2, in their first game without starting center Erik McCoy and with a third of the coaching staff in isolation due to COVID-19 — but the Saints are going into Week 18’s rematch with the Falcons (who beat the Trevor Siemian-led team 27-25 in the Caesars Superdome in Week 9) with a 3-2 record in the NFC South, including another season sweep of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And the vaunted NFC West
The NFC West is in the rotation this year, with the Saints scheduled to fly out for games in Arizona and San Francisco while hosting the Rams and Seahawks in New Orleans. It’s going to be tough sledding; the weakest team in the division, the Seahawks, are entering Week 18 with just two fewer wins than the Saints are right now. And there’s a very realistic chance that the other three teams all qualify for the postseason, with a 49ers win over the Rams eliminating New Orleans. The Saints seem to have some history with each of these squads, but that would definitely add more bad blood to the mix.
Rare games with the AFC North
It’s been a while the Saints saw any of these opponents, especially in New Orleans — the Ravens last visited in 2014, and they’ve won 5 of their 7 meetings with the Saints (both wins coming in Baltimore, in 2018 and 2002). And the Saints haven’t beaten the Bengals in New Orleans since 1994. Cincinnati’s last visit in 2014 was a big 27-10 win powered by 152 rushing yards from former LSU running back Jeremy Hill; more LSU standouts like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, plus former Saints in Trey Hendrickson and Vonn Bell, are in for a homecoming in 2022. The Saints have won three in a row against the Steelers (including in Pittsburgh in 2014), while their last win in Cleveland (in 2006) happened to be the first win of Sean Payton’s head coaching tenure.
Same-place finishers in the NFC and AFC
NFC North (home)
AFC West (home)
NFC East (away)
This is all still to be determined, based off Week 18’s results and the final standings. If New Orleans wins their last game (or draws a tie) they’ll finish second in the NFC South and face the second-ranked team in each of these divisions. If they lose in Atlanta, they’ll be third.
So if the current standings hold, it’ll mean home games with the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers, and another road game with the Philadelphia Eagles (their third trip to Philly in three years, weirdly). A third-place finish brings the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders to New Orleans with an away game versus the Washington Football Team, based off today’s standings. But as I said, there are plenty of moving parts involved.
Projected 2022 Saints opponents (prior to Week 18)
AFC West (same-place finisher)
NFC North (same-place finisher)
Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC East (same-place finisher)
San Francisco 49ers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers