NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The New Orleans Saints' first season as defending champions will include four night games and the franchise's first Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas.
The Saints will host the NFL's annual Thursday night regular season kickoff game on Sept. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings, a rematch of last season's NFC championship game.
The Saints' other night games are on Monday, Sept. 20 at San Francisco; Sunday, Oct. 31 at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Monday, Dec. 27 at Atlanta.
Last season, the Saints played three times in prime time, twice on Monday nights and once on Saturday night, the latter being their first loss of the season to the Cowboys after a 13-0 start.
This season the Saints will have even fewer Sunday afternoon games, making it tougher to get into a regular routine.
When people want to watch you, you take it as a compliment,'' Saints quarterback and reigning Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees said Tuesday.The reason they're putting you into a schedule like that is because people want to see you play and they want to see you play in big games and a lot of people want to see us win those games, so that give us confidence, that gives us strength.
We sort of look at it as a challenge because it's not easy to have to adjust your schedule and to have to adjust your routine to be able to play those games,'' Brees continued.But if you want to be a great team and be able to win year in and year out, then you've got to be able to handle that.''
The Saints open NFC South Division play at home on Sept. 26 against the Falcons. Other home games are on Oct. 24 against Cleveland, Nov. 21 against Seattle, Dec. 12 against St. Louis and Jan. 2 against Tampa Bay.
In addition to the Thanksgiving game at Dallas, the Saints' other road games will be Oct. 10 at Arizona, Oct. 17 at Tampa Bay, Nov. 7 at Carolina, Dec. 5 at Cincinnati and Dec. 19 at Baltimore.
The Saints advanced to the franchise's first Super Bowl last season by beating the Vikings 31-28 on a 40-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley 4:45 into overtime of the NFC title game in the Louisiana Superdome. New Orleans went on to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 for the first championship in franchise's 43 seasons.