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The New Orleans Saints will exit their bye week with challenging games lined up against a variety of opponents, ranging from divisional rivals to Super Bowl contenders (and sometimes both at once), to say nothing of some heated geographic contents. There’s a lot to like about how their schedule lines up, but there’s a lot to be wary of, too. Let’s get into updated score predictions for the rest of the 2021 season:
Week 7 at Seattle Seahawks (2-4) on Oct. 25
The Saints should win this game. Seattle wasn’t playing good football even before Russell Wilson went down with an injury, and Geno Smith has struggled to get the offense going in his stead. We won’t know how many players the Saints get back from injuries until closer to kickoff, but this one shouldn’t be close. Expect a banner day for the New Orleans defense against an outmatched Seahawks offense.
Score prediction: New Orleans 28, Seattle 18
Saints’ record: 4-2
Week 8 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1) on Oct. 31
Tampa Bay looks awful vulnerable despite their record. Their defense can’t stop passes deep downfield, which is an area where Jameis Winston has excelled. He could do some damage against their banged-up secondary with or without Michael Thomas. But expect Tom Brady’s high-flying offense to stress the Saints, too. This will be closer than the two blowout wins New Orleans found in the regular season last year, but they’ll win again if Winston protects the ball.
Score prediction: New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 33
Saints’ record: 5-2
Week 9 vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-3) on Nov. 7
The Saints should have all their players back by this point. The Falcons should still be playing very, very badly. But there have been too many close games in this rivalry before, and it would be extremely on brand for the Saints to demolish Seattle, likely upset Tampa Bay, and then lose a close game with Atlanta. I’ll hang up my keyboard before I predict that, though, so I’ll call this as a too-close-for-comfort win for New Orleans.
Score prediction: New Orleans 22, Atlanta 21
Saints’ record: 6-2
Week 10 at Tennessee Titans (4-2) on Nov. 14
So this could be a problem. Even though the Titans have taken some losses (first-round cornerback Caleb Farley tore his ACL Monday night), they’ve still got Derrick Henry leading the offense. The Saints are the only team he hasn’t faced except for his own Tennessee squad, so he’ll be eager to make a statement in this rare meeting. He’ll test New Orleans’ run defense like few running backs are able to, and I worry he’ll be able to control the pace of play enough to frustrate the Saints.
Score prediction: Tennessee 28, New Orleans 23
Saints’ record: 6-3
Week 11 at Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) on Nov. 21
The Eagles are bad, but they were bad last year and it didn’t stop them from upsetting the Taysom Hill-led Saints. Maybe Winston has better luck. Sean Payton’s team has to be smarting from last season’s frustrating loss and they should be motivated to find a win here after getting run over a week earlier. Still, Jalen Hurts is exactly the sort of mobile, big-armed quarterback they struggle to defend (see: Daniel Jones) and he has enough weapons to give the Saints trouble. I can see them dropping a loss here.
Score prediction: Philadelphia 27, New Orleans 24
Saints’ record: 6-4
Week 12 vs. Buffalo Bills (4-2) on Nov. 25
Here’s a big-time matchup on a big stage at the top of the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day slate. I’d love to see the Saints pull off a win against a Super Bowl contender (as they did in Week 1), but if they struggle with Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts then how are they going to handle the real deal in Josh Allen? Buffalo’s defense is strong enough to challenge even Sean Payton’s best-designed plays, too. I’ll predict a hard-fought loss.
Score prediction: Buffalo 35, New Orleans 28
Saints’ record: 6-5
Week 13 vs. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) on Dec. 2
Are the Cowboys overrated? Yeah, just as they always have been for most of my lifetime. A mediocre New England Patriots team just took them to overtime. Their offense is fantastic and big-play cornerback Trevon Diggs is the Defensive Player of the Year favorite, but they should have enough holes poked in their armor by December for the Saints to exploit. I like the Saints to bounce back in this game.
Score prediction: New Orleans 30, Dallas 25
Saints’ record: 7-5
Week 14 at New York Jets (2-4) on Dec. 12
The Jets haven’t shown much to like so far, and they aren’t likely to make great strides by December. They’re in for a years-long rebuild and the Saints should benefit by a low-stakes win late in the regular season. There’s always a chance New Orleans trips up and loses a game they should have won handily, but I have to think that trend withers away eventually.
Score prediction: New Orleans 24, New York 14
Saints’ record: 8-5
Week 15 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1) on Dec. 19
The toughest game left on the Saints’ schedule looks like a doozy. As we’ve seen before, New Orleans can beat Brady’s team if they avoid turning the ball over — every touchdown the Buccaneers offense scored against them in last year’s playoff game followed a Saints interception or fumble. If Winston does his job here, they sweep his old team. But right now I’ve seen too many risky plays from him to have confidence he’s turned the corner. I think a healthy Tampa team is more complete, and a bad game from Winston here dooms New Orleans’ season.
Score prediction: Tampa Bay 30, New Orleans 20
Saints’ record: 8-6
Week 16 vs. Miami Dolphins (1-5) on Dec. 27
Why should anyone believe the Dolphins are trending in the right direction? They just allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat them at a neutral site. They tanked multiple seasons so they could draft Tua Tagovailoa and so far that investment hasn’t paid off. No team stacked up more draft assets or salary cap space and done less with it. This has all the makings of the annual late-season 40-burger we’ve come to expect from the Saints.
Score prediction: New Orleans 35, Miami 13
Saints’ record: 9-6
Week 17 vs. Carolina Panthers (3-3) on Jan. 2
Carolina looks awful funny in the light. After sprinting out to a three-win start to the season and making a couple go-for-broke trades to revamp their secondary, they’ve lost three in a row and have dealt with some terrible quarterbacking from Sam Darnold. Maybe they stabilize once Christian McCaffrey returns from his latest stint on injured reserve. But I like the Saints’ chances in a raucous Superdome with playoff seeding on the line.
Score prediction: New Orleans 34, Carolina 23
Saints’ record: 10-6
Week 18 at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) on Jan. 9
How dumb would it be for the Saints to drop a game here, on the road against their most hated rival and in the thick of a playoffs push? It’s happened as recently as 2017, helping cement their status as the fourth seed in the NFC. So let’s hope it doesn’t happen again. The Falcons are just too inept in too many phases of the game to challenge a team eyeing their postseason chances.
Score prediction: New Orleans 28, Atlanta 23
Saints’ record: 11-6