In a matchup between the Super Bowl XLIV and XLV Champions, the New Orleans Saints will open the 2011 regular season at Green Bay, it was announced by the NFL today. Four prime-time night games are on the club's 16-game schedule, including the traditional kickoff of the entire NFL slate on Thursday, Sept. 8 at the defending champion Green Bay Packers on NBC (7:30 p.m. CT). The Saints will be one of the teams kicking off the NFL campaign for the second consecutive season and third time in five years.
After taking on the Packers at Lambeau Field, the Saints will host the Chicago Bears in their home opener in the Louisiana Superdome on Sept. 18 (noon CT). It will be the first meeting between the two clubs since 2008 and the first time the Bears come to the Superdome since 2003.
The Saints will then face two consecutive AFC South opponents when they host the Houston Texans at the Superdome on Sept. 25 (noon CT) and then travel to Everbank Field to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 2 (noon CT) in the start of a three-game road trip.
The Saints will open their 2011 NFC South slate when they travel to Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 9 and play the Carolina Panthers (noon CT). In 2010, New Orleans swept their divisional rivals for the first time since 2001. The Saints three-game swing away from the Superdome at Raymond James Stadium when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 16. The Saints are 22-16 all-time against the Buccaneers after the two clubs split both meetings in 2010.
New Orleans will then make their second appearance on prime-time on Oct. 23, when they host the Indianapolis on NBC's Sunday Night Football (7:20 p.m. CT) in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIV, when the Saints defeated the Colts 31-17 on Feb. 7, 2010. The following Sunday, the Saints will travel to the St. Louis Rams (noon CT) to close out their October slate.
The Saints will then face two straight NFC South opponents, starting when they host Tampa Bay at the Superdome on Nov. 6 (noon CT). They will then travel to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 13. The game, which falls on the tenth week of the NFL season, marks the beginning of the NFL's flex scheduling format and the contest, as well as four others are subject to be moved to different time slots. The game is slated to be kicked off at noon CT. The Saints will then have their bye in week 11. This will be the latest weekend the club has had off since the NFL's institution of the bye system in 1990.
The Black-and-Gold will return to the Monday Night Football spotlight following their bye when they host the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. CT) on Nov. 28. Since Sean Paytonbecame head coach in 2006, the Saints have enjoyed a 7-2 record on Monday nights, including five straight wins.
New Orleans then hosts the Detroit Lions in a game scheduled for noon on Dec. 4, followed by a road matchup at the Tennessee Titans, Dec. 11. The Saints will then travel to Minnesota for a Dec. 18 game at the Vikings before closing the regular season against two straight NFC South opponents.
On Monday, Dec. 26, the Saints will host Atlanta in the Superdome for an ESPN-broadcast showdown with the Falcons (7:30 p.m. CT). The game will mark the third-consecutive year that the Saints will face the Falcons on Monday Night Football and the sixth time in the last seven seasons after the two clubs had never faced each other on Monday until 2005. New Orleans will then close out their regular season on Jan. 1, hosting Carolina at the Superdome (noon CT).