The 2021-22 NFL regular season in is the books, and the NFL playoffs are underway. Unfortunately for the New Orleans Saints, the season ended on January 9, 2022, and our eyes now turn to the 2022-23 NFL season.
The Saints’ opponents for next regular season as well as the games’ venues have now all been disclosed, with the only missing information being the dates and times of the games. So, we now know that the Saints’ 2022 home opponents will as expected, include their division rivals (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). In addition, New Orleans will face the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. If you counted with me, yes, the Saints will have nine home games in 2022. It remains to be seen whether one of these games will be played on a neutral site (such as London).
As we are in this new 17-game format in the NFL regular season, the Saints will play eight games on the road in 2022, their three divisional opponents as is customary, plus the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
In this top 10, we will focus on the appeal of the matchup. With most NFL squads far from being finalized for 2022, it would be difficult to assess all individual matchups at this point. However, we look at factors such as: teams that the Saints do not play very often, or teams that have prominent players with ties to either the Saints or the state of Louisiana.
Today we focus on:
Number 10: The Cleveland Browns (Road)
The Saints will play the Browns in Cleveland next season, in what Saints’ fans hope will be a matchup played early in the season rather than later, since cold winters in Ohio aren’t exactly New Orleans’ favorite type of weather.
As bad as the Browns have been in their history, they hold a 13-5 all time advantage over the Saints in 18 meetings. New Orleans is 2-5 against Cleveland on the road, with the last win coming on September 10, 2006, in what was the first game for Sean Payton as the Saints’ head coach.
Cleveland, which was touted as a Super Bowl contender, finished the 2021 season with an 8-9 record and missed the playoffs one year after knocking on the door of the AFC Championship Game. The Browns lost by a narrow 22-17 score to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional playoffs last season and were supposed to take a step forward this season. However, a shoulder injury to quarterback Baker Mayfield contributed to the signal-caller having a subpar season in which he threw 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. The polarizing Mayfield missed three games during the season and famously clashed with star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., which led to Beckham’s release from the team. The former LSU wide receiver is now starting to flourish with the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs.
The Browns are at a crossroads with Mayfield, as he is entering his contract year, one that would see his base salary balloon from a little under a million dollars to a whopping near-19 million dollars, according to Spotrac. Do the Browns sign Mayfield to a long term deal to avoid dealing with his massive salary cap in 2022? Finding a trade would be the best option to save money, but suitors may not be easy to find for the erratic quarterback.
Should Mayfield stay in Cleveland, he is the type of player that Dennis Allen’s Saints defense would love to feast on, as the Browns’ quarterback has shown a propensity to throw the ball to the other team throughout his career. In four years as a starter, he has thrown 14, 21, 8 and 13 interceptions.
On defense, the Browns feature defensive end Myles Garrett, who is one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL. Cleveland also features a few former LSU standouts on defense in cornerback Greedy Williams, linebacker Jacob Phillips, and safety Grant Delpit. As a unit however, Cleveland was an average defense last season.
The last meeting between the Saints and Browns took place in the then-Mercedes Benz Superdome, on September 16, 2018. The 0-1 Saints narrowly defeated the Browns 21-18, en route to a 13-3 season. Cleveland started journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor that day and nearly pulled the upset, as the Saints always have trouble with quarterbacks that can run. For a fun trip down memory lane, one of the starting linebackers for the Saints that day was Manti Te’o, who was having a resurgence in his NFL career. Jermon Bushrod was back in NOLA as a backup offensive lineman and Benjamin Watson and Ted Ginn Jr. were an integral part of the Saints’ passing game. Time sure flies.
Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, on Instagram @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel.