Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 5/25/12

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 08: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Super Bowl Champion Coach Press Conference at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center on February 8, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
This year the New Orleans Saints will be playing without head coach Sean Payton, while trying to become the first team to win the NFC South division in consecutive seasons.

This article looks at what New Orleans can expect from their 2012 regular season schedule.

In the first three weeks of the season, New Orleans will play against the Kansas City Chiefs,  Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, three teams that combined for 18 wins and 30 losses in 2011.

These three teams are improving but should prove no match for the New Orleans Saints.

In Week 4 New Orleans will get their first big test of the season, as they will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. The two teams met last season in Lambeau to kick off the NFL season, with Green Bay winning a slugfest 43-34.

In Week 5, Robert Meachem will have a homecoming as his new team, the San Diego Chargers, come to town for a primetime Sunday night matchup. Following their Week 5 matchup the New Orleans Saints will have a bye in Week 6.

The bye week will come at a crucial time as following it; New Orleans will play division rival Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium, before traveling to Denver to renew an old rivalry against quarterback Peyton Manning.

Weeks 9-11 will see New Orleans hosting the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons at home, and a road game against the Oakland Raiders.

Then Weeks 12-14 will be New Orleans’ toughest stretch of the season, as they will play against three teams that made the playoffs in 2011, with two of those games being on the road. The Week 12 matchup will be a rematch of the 2011 NFC Divisional game against San Francisco. The Week 13 and 14 matchups will be on the road against the Atlanta Falcons and defending Super Bowl Champion New York.

New Orleans will finish the season with a road game against the Dallas Cowboys and home games against the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Final Analysis
If the team is able to sign Drew Brees to a new contract then expect New Orleans to win 11 or 12 games this season, but if for some reason Brees misses part or all of the season, expect a replaying of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. 

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