N.O. Saints slated to play five primetime games in 2014

Associated Press photo by BOB LEVERONENew Orleans Saints' Drew Brees looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. Show caption
Associated Press photo by BOB LEVERONENew Orleans Saints' Drew Brees looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.

After qualifying to the postseason three times and appearing in the divisional round twice since winning Super Bowl XLIV a little more than four years ago, it was virtually a foregone conclusion that the New Orleans Saints would get their fair share of primetime games in 2014.

The NFL’s schedule makers did not disappoint, revealing on Wednesday that they had given the Black and Gold at least five primetime games this season, which is more than usual.

The Saints had gotten four primetime regular-season games at the beginning of each of the campaigns from 2010 to 2013. In 2011 and last year, the NFL flexed a fifth regular-season game into primetime.

Below is the Saints’ complete schedule:

Preseason:

Friday, Aug. 8: at St. Louis Rams, 7 p.m. (Cox Sports)

Friday, Aug. 15: Tennessee, 7 p.m. (Cox Sports)

Saturday, Aug. 23: at Indianapolis, 7 p.m. (CBS)

Thursday, Aug. 28: Baltimore, 7 p.m. (Cox Sports)

Regular Season:

*denotes playoff team

Sunday, Sept. 7: at Atlanta, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Sept. 14: at Cleveland, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Sept. 21: Minnesota, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Sept. 28: at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. (Sunday Night Football), NBC

Sunday, Oct. 5: Tampa Bay, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Oct. 12: Bye

Sunday, Oct. 19: at Detroit, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Oct. 26: Green Bay*, 7:30 p.m. (Sunday Night Football), NBC

Thursday, Oct. 30: at Carolina*, 7:25 p.m. (Thursday Night Football), NFL Network

Sunday, Nov. 9: San Francisco*, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Nov. 16: Cincinnati*, Noon, CBS

Monday, Nov. 24: Baltimore, 7:30 p.m. (Monday Night Football), ESPN

Sunday, Nov. 30: at Pittsburgh, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Dec. 7: Carolina*, Noon, Fox

Monday, Dec. 15: at Chicago, 7:30 p.m. (Monday Night Football), ESPN

Sunday, Dec. 21: Atlanta, Noon, Fox

Sunday, Dec. 28: at Tampa Bay, Noon, Fox

Only five of those regular-season games will be against teams that made the playoffs in 2013: the two against Carolina (12-4 last year, NFC South champions) and the ones against Green Bay (8-7-1, NFC North champions), Cincinnati (11-5, AFC North champions) and San Francisco (12-4, wildcard).

All but one of those games — at divisonal rival Carolina — will be at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Saints have not lost a game with coach Sean Payton on the sidelines since the end of the 2010 season.

In terms of strength of schedule, the Saints’ slate of opponents is supposed to be tied for the 23rd most difficult out of 32. The combined record of their opponents was 119-135-2 for a winning percentage of .469.

Nonetheless, four of the teams the Saints are facing in the regular season are trying to rebuild their identities after hiring new coaches: Tampa Bay, under Lovie Smith after Greg Schiano’s dismissal; Detroit, under Jim Caldwell after Jim Schwartz was fired; Minnesota, under Mike Zimmer after Leslie Frazier was fired; and Cleveland, under Mike Pettine after Rob Chudzinski was fired.

That’s one reason why Payton doesn’t put too much stock in strength of schedule, he said prior to the official release of the calendar Wednesday.

“There’s so much that takes place during the course of a year with regard to teams that get better, some teams don’t do as well, injuries,” Payton said. “Look, you try not to focus on things you have zero control over.”

Check back with The Advocate later for more on the Saints’ 2014 schedule.