The New Orleans Saints' reward for winning the NFC South Division and earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC last season is a brutal, marquee opening month for the 2019 regular season.
But don't let the top-heavy look deceive; the back half of the schedule is loaded with games that could determine the NFC South champion.
New Orleans, winner of two consecutive NFC South titles and coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game – a contest with an ending so controversial that it sparked a change in the NFL's instant replay system – will face four division winners from 2018 (three in the first four weeks) and play two nationally televised games in September.
Prime time begins immediately for the Saints (13-3 last season), with a Monday night home opener Sept. 9 against AFC South champion Houston in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That will be followed by consecutive road games against the Los Angeles Rams (a short-week, Sept. 15 engagement against the NFC West champs) and Seahawks (Sept. 22), then a Sunday night home game against the NFC East champion Cowboys (Sept. 29).
The NFC Championship Game rematch against the Rams, who went on to play New England in the Super Bowl, will be the fourth game between the Saints and Rams in the last three seasons, including two last year.
Included in the prime time games is a second consecutive Thanksgiving night matchup against Atlanta, on a schedule that includes six playoff teams (the Rams, Texans, Seahawks, Cowboys, Bears and Colts) from '18. The difference this season is that the game will be in Atlanta.
October opens with a visit from NFC South rival Tampa Bay on Oct. 6, completing the first of two back-to-back home games for the Saints in '19. But the second of three back-to-backs on the road follows: Oct. 13 at Jacksonville, and Oct. 20 at Chicago, the NFC North champion.
October closes with a home game against Arizona on the 27th, followed by the bye week, which evenly will split the season – eight games before the bye, eight games after.
The second half of the season features one playoff opponent and prime time game: the Colts on Monday night, Dec. 16, in the Superdome. But five of the final eight games will be against NFC South rivals Atlanta (Nov. 10 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Thanksgiving night in Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Tampa Bay (Nov. 17 in Raymond James Stadium) and Carolina (Nov. 24 in New Orleans and Dec. 29, the regular-season finale, in Charlotte, N.C.).
The Saints were 6-2 at home last season, 7-1 on the road and posted a 10-game winning streak.