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New Orleans Saints 2014 Schedule is Shaping Up

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New Orleans is getting closer to knowing our 2014 opponents.

The Saints face several outdoor games against the NFC North and AFC North in 2014.
The Saints face several outdoor games against the NFC North and AFC North in 2014.
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

We are getting close to knowing all of the opponents which the New Orleans Saints will face in the 2014 regular season.

The majority of the opponents any NFL team will face in a given year are known well in advance. Only two games remain undecided. Each team plays six divisional games (each division opponent at home, and away), four games against a rotating NFC division and four games against a rotating AFC division. These opponents are known every single year, even if we don't know when in the season we will face a given team.

The two extra teams which round out the schedule will be the teams who finished in the same place in their divisions in the same conference the previous year. Although there are three other NFC divisions, we are already playing every team from one of them; so we are left with one team from each of the two divisions the NFC South does not face.

The NFC South, which has faced the NFC West and AFC East this year, is playing the NFC North and AFC North in 2014. So if the Saints finish the year as the top team in the NFC South this year, they will face the top teams in the NFC West (at home) and NFC East (away) next year.

Here's an early look at the 2014 schedule for the New Orleans Saints:

Home

Division Opponent Current Record
NFC South Atlanta Falcons 3-10
NFC South Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-9
NFC South Carolina Panthers 9-4
NFC North Green Bay Packers 6-6-1
NFC North Minnesota Vikings 3-9-1
AFC North
Baltimore Ravens 7-6
AFC North Cincinnati Bengals 9-4
NFC West 11-2

** Although the 49ers (9-4) or Cardinals (8-5) could still finish atop the NFC West, it is very unlikely.

Away

Division Opponent Current Record
NFC South Atlanta Falcons 3-10
NFC South Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-9
NFC South Carolina Panthers 9-4
NFC North Chicago Bears 7-6
NFC North Detroit Lions 7-6
AFC North
Cleveland Browns 4-9
AFC North Pittsburgh Steelers 5-8
NFC East Eagles / Cowboys 8-5 / 7-6

This year's performance is admittedly a poor gauge for how a given team will perform next year. After all, the four worst teams in the NFL this year -- Falcons, Texans, Vikings, and Redskins -- were in the playoffs last year. However, it will likely be a small blessing that New Orleans will host our 2014 NFC West opponent.

What won't be a blessing, however, is the likelihood that we will be playing multiple games in sub-freezing temperatures. The world will likely get some perspective of how well the Saints perform in outdoor stadiums next year; as we may be playing almost every away game in the weather, except our matches against the Lions and Falcons. And while Tampa may offer little worse than wind and rain... Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia all have the potential to present some bitterly inclement weather. So if the cliché about dome teams having trouble outdoors were to ring true, the NFL could impact the success of the Saints by selectively scheduling our games -- and those of our division opponents -- to favor the postseason chances of any given NFC South team.