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Saints must recapture Monday Night magic in worst way

After three straight 7-9 seasons, how Sean Payton and the Saints start this year is really everything.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 regular season campaign is here for the New Orleans Saints. After months of waiting, the first challenge for Sean Payton’s squad puts them in front of the national spotlight on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Once upon a time, Monday Night Football was the Saints’ bread and butter. They were simply unstoppable, riding an 11-2 record dating back to 2006 up until the end of the 2013 season when they had an ugly 34-7 loss to the Seahawks in early December. After an impressive showing to start, the Saints have lost four out of their last five contests on Monday Night Football, with a lone victory in Chicago against the Bears in 2014 to boast.

You’re likely to hear a lot of emphasis being stressed on the Saints getting off to a strong start to begin their season, and rightfully so. Over the course of the Sean Payton era, a loss in the season opener has led to a losing season in five of six campaigns, with 2011 being the lone exception. Over the past three seasons, which have yielded three straight 7-9 finishes, the Saints have turned in a collective 1-8 record through their first three contests. Just five games in to those seasons, they’ve been able to mostly rebound at 5-10, but the damage had already been done, and the Saints couldn’t overcome.

Starting strong tells the story

Season Home Road Score First 3 First 5 Final Record
Season Home Road Score First 3 First 5 Final Record
2016 X 34-35 0-3 2-3 7-9
2015 X 19-31 0-3 1-4 7-9
2014 X 34-37 1-2 2-3 7-9
2013 X 23-17 3-0 5-0 11-5
2012 X 32-40 0-3 1-4 7-9
2011 X 34-42 2-1 4-1 13-3
2010 X 14-9 2-1 3-2 11-5
2009 X 45-27 3-0 5-0 13-3
2008 X 24-20 1-2 2-3 8-8
2007 X 10-41 0-3 1-4 7-9
2006 X 19-14 3-0 4-1 10-6
How the Saints start is everything John Hendrix

Entering their matchup against the Vikings, there’s a lot of things that could fall the Saints way. However, being cautiously optimistic or even slightly guarded heading into this game is completely fair. You want to buy into the whole ‘Saints have gotten better on defense’ claims, but in reality there’s plenty of things that could go south very quickly.

The simple fact of Week 1 is that the Saints can’t afford to start another season in the hole, and they have to emerge victorious on Monday. Although it’s something we aren’t even focused on right now, defeating the Patriots in Week 2 feels like a tall task that we can’t simply overlook. In essence, it’s right there in the rearview mirror, especially on a short week.

Starting strong isn’t necessarily a guarantee for anything in today’s NFL (see the 2016 Minnesota Vikings), but for the Saints, it’s a much needed ingredient for this season’s success.


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