Detroit Lions - Week 13
This will be quite the benchmark year for the Lions. Will the great strides they made at the end of last season carry over into 2023 or will they revert back to the team that started the year 1-6? We will know by Week 13. Most of their pieces are returning outside of Jamaal Williams and DJ Chark who both headed for the NFC South, but the acquisitions of Marvin Jones, Jr., David Montgomery, and rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs should more than make up for the lost production. Not to mention last years top draft choice Jameson Williams will be back from suspension by Week 13 also.
This game will be at home thankfully, but if the Lions avoid a fall off they will likely just be hitting their stride this time of year much like they did last year. Their are many former Saints on the coaching staff including head coach Dan Campbell, and not to mention Chauncey Gardner-Johnson also signed with Detroit this offseason and will undoubtedly be looking to get back at the team that traded him at the start of last year.
Carolina Panthers - Weeks 2 & 14
The Panthers are one of the most improved teams in the NFL this year. They of course added #1 overall pick Bryce Young but also brought in weapons for their young QB in veterans Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Miles Sanders. The defense filled some holes as well by bringing in Shy Tuttle and Vonn Bell. Last season was a bridge year for Carolina as they never had a stable QB room, but now that Bryce Young has arrived they may have their next franchise QB. The Saints are lucky to catch Young in Week 2 when he may not be as acclimated to the NFL yet, and are also lucky that the game further down the road in Week 14 when Young might be coming into form is in New Orleans, but the Panthers could be a tough out this year and may challenge for the division if Bryce Young plays up to his potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Week 7
One of only three playoff teams on the Saints’ schedule this year outside of the division, the Jags enter 2023 with high expectations after finishing the year winning 8 of their last 11 games including the playoffs. Trevor Lawrence looks like a franchise QB after swapping Urban Meyer for a real head coach in Doug Pederson, plus they will add former Falcons WR Calvin Ridley who is returning from suspension and who has registered 90+ receiving yards in all but one of six career games against the Saints. The problem for the Jags is on defense, as they did not add much to improve a defense that ranked 24th in the NFL last year, opting to improve the offense around Lawrence. The Saints will have to keep up with the Jags offense that could wind up being top 5 in the league if they hope to win their sole primetime game in the Superdome.
Minnesota Vikings - Week 10
The lone team on the Saints schedule to have double digit wins last season, the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will add another chapter into their recent history of close games, most of which have gone the Vikings way so I won’t discuss them any further. Despite a 13 win season last season, the Vikings of late can’t exactly be trusted to string two good seasons together, as they have not had back to back playoff appearances since 2008 and 2009, despite making the playoffs 5 of the last 11 seasons. This game will be on the road the week before the Saints bye. Slowing down Justin Jefferson is obviously the key to beating Minnesota, something the Saints have struggled with as Jefferson has 232 yards in two career games, but so far has not scored against New Orleans. The defense will have to show up in a big way against the Vikings if the Saints are to enter the bye week victorious this year.
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