The 2021-22 NFL regular season in is the books, and only one game is left to determine who will be the 2021-22 NFL Super Bowl champion. 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 have nine home games in 2022. It remains to be seen which one of these games will be played on a neutral site (New Orleans is expected to play a game in England in the 2022 season).
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.
At Number 10 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the Cleveland Browns, which you can read about here.
At Number 9 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the Arizona Cardinals, which you can read about here.
At Number 8 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the Seattle Seahawks, which you can read about here.
At Number 7 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, which you can read about here.
At Number 6 in our matchups countdown was the game between the Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which you can read about here.
Today we focus on:
Number 5: The Atlanta Falcons (Home)
Not so long ago, the Atlanta Falcons enjoyed a 10-game edge over the New Orleans Saints in the all-time series between the two teams. Then came the year 2006 and the hiring of Sean Payton in New Orleans, and the Saints have enjoyed a 22-10 record over the Dirty Birds in that time span. Right now, the Falcons have a tenuous 54-52 advantage over the Saints all-time, and if New Orleans can maintain the winning culture that Payton built in NOLA under his former understudy Dennis Allen, before long this series will tilt in the favor of the Black and Gold.
Next season, as is always the case, the Falcons will play the Saints both in Atlanta and in the Superdome. Our game number 5 of the Saints’ 2022 NFL regular season top 10 is the Falcons’ visit to the Superdome. What is amazing however, is that the Saints have played the Falcons as well on the road as they have at home: New Orleans is 26-27 at home against Atlanta, and you guessed it, they are 26-27 against the Birdies in Atlanta. So, the venue does not appear to confer a decided advantage to either team. What is fun about this matchup, however, is how despite the teams and coaches changing over the years, the hate, and the desire to see the other fail remains strong as ever.
In recent years, the Falcons have endured a lot of losing, but they also went to the Super Bowl in 2016, a game they had won when they were up 28-3 over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. in the third quarter. Of course, they found a way to lose, in a game that made a lot of Saints fans as happy as if the New Orleans themselves had won a ring that day. That the Falcons still do not have a championship ring delights all Saints fans, who still revel in their 2009 triumph, 13 years later.
The new season will mark the beginning of a new era for both teams, as the Saints will be introducing a new head coach, Dennis Allen, for the first time since 2006. The Falcons will be trotting out second-year head coach Arthur Smith, who was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans before taking on the role with Atlanta. Quarterback Matt Ryan is on his last NFL leg; however, he has now become the best quarterback in the NFC South with the back-to-back retirements of Drew Bree and Tom Brady respectively. The Falcons will be expected to win the NFC South next season, simply based on who their signal-caller is. For the Saints, it will be a soft rebuild, but the team is not set at quarterback, and despite having a championship defense, they finished the 2021 regular season 9-8 and watched the playoffs on television. In this era of the NFL, a team needs a gifted quarterback and an offense that can score. Just look at the two teams that will play in Super Bowl LVI in a few days.
But regardless of how good both teams will be, this is one of those rivalries that transcend records. The Saints would hate going 2-15 next season, but if those two wins are against the Falcons and keeps them from going to the postseason, then it’s not such a terrible year after all, let’s go enjoy Mardi Gras! Falcons’ fans still hold on to the foolish hope that anyone but them and sad Vikings fans will consider the Saints’ 2009 title tainted (hint: it’s not). No two teams want to beat each other so badly, and when the Falcons visit New Orleans next season, nothing will be acceptable other than a thrashing of Atlanta, new head coach and journeyman quarterback in NOLA or not.
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