Sunday, April 4, 2010

And for Whatever This Is Worth: Saints' preseason opponents announced

The New Orleans Saints’ pre-season opponents have been announced.

The Black and Gold’s scrubs will open up exhibition play in Foxborough to face the New England Patriots’ scrubs around the second weekend of August.

The Saints then come back to New Orleans to face the Houston Texans in pre-season action around the third weekend in August, making the third straight year the regional neighbors will play an exhibition game. Last year’s pre-season game against the Texans came at a cost as the Saints lost tight end Billy Miller for the season. It seems this is going to be a longstanding tradition between the two franchises- hardly approaching LSU-Arkansas “boot trophy” status as at least the latter game counts for something.

In the one pre-season game that is set in stone, Saints fans will finally get to see the San Diego Chargers play in the Superdome for the first time since September 7, 1997. The two teams were supposed to play in the Superdome in 2008 but then the NFL brass decided to move that one to Wembley Stadium in London. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton thought about as much as playing in the UK as the league’s new playoff overtime rule.

According to the team website, the Saints-Chargers game is slated for Friday, August 27th at 7 PM and will be broadcast nationally on CBS. This could be the one game that the Superdome will be a little bit more than half-full.

The Saints close out pre-season on the road against the Tennessee Titans around Labor Day. Louisiana State Troopers certified in the fine art of snipping should be dispatched to this venue to ensure that the Titans’ mascot doesn’t run over another Saints quarterback. As the Saints will open the regular season the next Thursday evening, it’s likely that the game will be played on Thursday, September 2nd so as not to give the defending World Champs a short week to prepare for the regular season opener.

This season ticket holder has strong opinions on preseason (it’s a necessary evil but it shouldn’t be necessary for me to buy those damned tickets) and will watch them (from either home or Sammy’s Grill in Baton Rouge) for two reasons: 1) to see if anyone gets hurt and 2) to see what “surprise” player will emerge to practice squad-inactive roster bubble status.

I’ll post the solid times when they are announced.

As for the start of REAL season play, we know the Saints will kick off the season on Thursday, September 9th in the Superdome (SuperBowl banner unveiling will make it one of those “special games” for fans and StubHub).

While the Saints’ opponent has yet to be named, it’s likely that they will face either the Minnesota Vikings or Atlanta Falcons.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were an early favorite as they are expected to contend in the AFC and their status as the Super Bowl XLIII Champions but Steelers President Art Rooney II dismissed the possibility as it would conflict with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ schedule.

Though the teams play in different stadiums, as opposed to the old days when the two teams shared the concrete donut known as Three Rivers Stadium, the two professional teams try to avoid competing with each other as the Steelers and Pirates home fields (Heinz Field and PNC Park respectively) are not far away from each other and share a parking lot.

With Pittsburgh out, network rating interests and quality control will rule out Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Carolina, Saint Louis and Seattle from having the honor of being fed to the lions (small “L”) before a national television audience.

The Saints will either take on their longtime rivals and main threat for repeating for the top spot in the NFC South or the very team the Black and Gold beat in the NFC Championship game, which subsequently led to the Saints winning the Lombardi Trophy and the NFL changing their playoff rules.

My take: the decision is in Brett Favre’s hands. In other words, we might not have an answer until mid-August.

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