The NFL schedule is set for official release on this coming Thursday but leaks are sure to occur before then.
Already Ben Volin of the Boston Globe has all but assured us the Patriots should host the Chiefs to start the 2017 regular season on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons, he says, were also under heavy consideration to be chosen in a Super Bowl re-match but:
“they are likely to open the season at home on “Sunday Night Football” to debut their new stadium”.
Based on this, I immediately wondered who might be the Falcons’s opponent to open up their new stadium on Sunday night. The Falcons will face the Panthers, Bucs, Saints, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Bills and Dolphins at home this year – so that would be the candidate pool. I would say the Saints, Cowboys and Packers are by far the most rating friendly matchups of that bunch, with the Panthers being a longshot. Then you consider how exciting the shootouts have been with the Falcons and Saints lately, plus the fact that the Saints were the team chosen to close the Georgia Dome in its final regular season game, it only makes sense they be the first team to face the Falcons in their new stadium. From a rivalry perspective, it’s a no brainer.
You wonder if the Saints lack of success in recent seasons may tempt schedule makers to go the other route, though. The Packers would be a re-match of the NFC Championship game of 2016, and the Cowboys/Falcons had the best two records in the NFC last year. So both of those matchups make a ton of sense too. I wouldn’t book your flight to Atlanta for that weekend just yet as those are big time matchups likely to garner serious consideration. Still, the Saints and Falcons seem to always get at least one prime team game each season and this would certainly fill that quota.
At the end of the day I would say the Saints on Sunday Night in week 1 to start the season at Atlanta would be a scary but fun way to begin 2017. Jumping into the fire like that and starting the year 1-0 would be very tough. Would you as a Saints fan prefer to get visiting the Falcons out of the way in week 1 or wait until later in the season?