Saints 2013 schedule: New Orleans tries to usurp Atlanta in NFC South

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints face a tough schedule this season as they attempt to take down the Falcons and re-take the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints aren't the top dog in the NFC South anymore -- that distinction belongs to the Atlanta Falcons. Well, a more accurate statement would be that they aren't the top dog on paper. It's a new season and the Saints will do their best to show that they're not past their point of dominance and still have another run at the Super Bowl left in them.

Fortunately for Drew Brees and his Saints, they'll get a shot at the Falcons right away, as they host their division rivals in their season opener on Sept. 8. The Saints have made a few changes here or there, but at the end of the day, Brees is going to be airing it out hoping to light up opposing defenses while they try and sort things out with their new pieces on the defensive side of the ball.

Unfortunately, the Saints have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this season. We'll take a look at it below:

Week Date Opponent Time (ET) TV
1 Sept. 8 vs. Atlanta 1 p.m. FOX
2 Sept. 15 @ Tampa Bay 4:05 p.m. FOX
3 Sept. 22 vs. Arizona 1 p.m. FOX
4 Sept. 30 vs. Miami 8:40 p.m. ESPN
5 Oct. 6 @ Chicago 1 p.m. FOX
6 Oct. 13 @ New England 4:25 p.m. FOX
8 Oct. 27 vs. Buffalo 1 p.m. CBS
9 Nov. 3 @ New York Jets 1 p.m. FOX
10 Nov. 10 vs. Dallas 8:30 p.m. NBC
11 Nov. 17 vs. San Francisco 4:25 p.m. FOX
12 Nov. 21 @ Atlanta 8:25 p.m. NFL
13 Dec. 2 @ Seattle 8:40 p.m. ESPN
14 Dec. 8 vs. Carolina 1 p.m. FOX
15 Dec. 15 @ St. Louis 1 p.m. FOX
16 Dec. 22 @ Carolina 1 p.m. FOX
17 Dec. 29 vs. Tampa Bay 1 p.m. FOX

Toughest out: New England Patriots

The Saints will play two rough games prior to their Week 7 bye: a road game against the Chicago Bears, and then a road game against the Patriots. New England is one of the best teams in the league, and Tom Brady is no stranger to shredding defenses, whether they be poor or elite. New Orleans probably falls somewhere in between. It's going to be a tough matchup, to be sure.

Must win: Atlanta (home)

When it comes to season openers, it's rare to ever call one a "must win," but the Saints are competing for the division here. They expect to beat the Panthers and the Buccaneers, possibly both times they play both teams, but they need to at least split with Atlanta. Beating the Falcons in Week 12 right after a game against the San Francisco 49ers is going to be tough, so beating them at home in Week 1 is their best option.

Don't overlook: St. Louis Rams

The Saints play the entire NFC West this season, and while the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will be the most challenging competition, they also need to watch out for the Rams. Many believe that three members of the NFC West can compete for the playoffs this season. The Rams have an elite defense that will make Brees work for his yardage and his touchdowns, and if Sam Bradford finds a reliable receiving option over the course of the season, Week 15 could feature a very good Rams team.

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