The National Football League announced the 2017 regular season schedule tonight and the highlights for the New Orleans Saints slate includes at least two prime time nationally-televised games, a nationally broadcast contest from London's Wembley Stadium and a home opener against the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Saints will open their season on the road in prime time, when they play the Minnesota Vikings Monday, September 11 (6:10 p.m. CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium in a Monday Night Football matchup, marking the fourth time that New Orleans has played Minnesota on opening day. It will be the first time New Orleans has opened up their season in prime time since 2011, the sixth time overall and the second time (first, September 10, 1990 vs. San Francisco) they have opened on Monday Night Football. It will also be the start of a four-game stretch that features three away contests.
Following the season opener, the Saints will begin their 2017 Mercedes-Benz Superdome slate when they host the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots on September 17. The Saints go back on the road for the debut of their NFC South slate in Week 3 and then will go across the pond to face the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on October 1, a contest with an 8:30 a.m. CT kickoff. The club will have their bye in Week 5 for the second consecutive season.
After the Week 5 bye, the Saints will return to a four-game stretch that features three NFC North opponents and a division rival. The first home game consists of a Week 6 matchup vs. Detroit on October 15. The Saints will then travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 (October 22), before hosting the Chicago Bears in Week 8 (October 29) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9 (November 5).
In Week 10, New Orleans will take on the Buffalo Bills in a 12:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon contest at New Era Field (November 12) before returning home to host the Washington Redskins in Week 11 (November, 19). The Saints will close out the month by embarking to the West Coast to play the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Week 12 (November 26, 3:05 p.m. CT).
Following the Saints' first regular season trip to Los Angeles since 1994, the Saints will begin the month of December with a return to division play after a one-month hiatus when they play host to the Panthers (December 3). In Week 14, New Orleans will face the Atlanta Falcons at the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday Night Football (Thursday, December 7, 7:25 p.m. CT). As a part of the NFL's expanded Thursday Night Football Package, the NFC South rivalry game will be broadcast nationally NBC and the NFL Network, and will also be streamed live by Amazon.
The stretch of New Orleans' final three regular season contests begins with a Week 15 home matchup against the New York Jets (December 17). Following the game against the Jets, the Saints will host the Falcons on Christmas Eve (December 24). The Saints will close out 2017 with a Week 17 road contest at Tampa Bay (December 31), marking the fourth consecutive campaign that New Orleans has finished the regular season on the road.
10 of the Saints' 16 games will be against teams that finished with a winning percentage of .500 or better in 2016, with games against five playoff opponents – Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay, Miami and the Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots. New Orleans will play each of their NFC South rivals twice, one game each against each of the NFC North and AFC East teams and will play the 2016 third place team in the NFC East (vs. Washington) and NFC West (at Los Angeles Rams).
Take a look back at the Saints first trip to London for the NFL International Series in 2008.
New Orleans's eight regular season road games in 2017 will have the team travel a total of 24,004 miles (roundtrip) away from home. A Week 4 trip to London results in 9,274 miles round trip. Last season the Saints traveled 19,218 miles with the longest trip being a Week 9 contest at San Francisco (2,229 miles).
Thanks to an away schedule that includes road contests at NFC South foes Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta and at the Dolphins in London, Buffalo and the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints will leave the Central Time zone six times over the course of the season. The Black and Gold will play in the Eastern Time Zone four times (Week 3 at Carolina, Week 9 at Buffalo, Week 14 at Atlanta and Week 17 at Tampa Bay), Greenwich Mean Time once (Week 4 at Dolphins with an 8:30 am CT kick) and the Pacific Time Zone once (Week 12 at Los Angeles Rams).
For the fourth straight year, a select number of games will be "cross-flexed," moving between FOX and CBS to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences. Some of those contests were announced today while the remainder of "cross-flexed" games will be decided during the season.
"Flexible Scheduling will be used in Weeks 5-15 and in Week 17. In Weeks 10-15, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game for the Weeks 5-15 contests. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives "surprise" teams a chance to play their way into prime time contests.