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Saints schedule, 2021 NFL odds: New Orleans begins new era without Drew Brees vs. Packers Week 1; host Bills on Thanksgiving

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No team would benefit more to start the 2021 NFL season if the Green Bay Packers don’t have superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers than the New Orleans Saints because they host the Packers in Week 1. New Orleans opened as a 3-point favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NFL odds, but that number is certainly in flux depending on whether it’s Rodgers, Jordan Love or someone else under center for Green Bay. The Saints also will play a Thanksgiving primetime game in 2021 for the third time in the past four seasons, hosting Buffalo.

The last time the Saints opened an NFL season without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees on the roster was in 2005. Under then-coach Jim Haslett, the Saints finished 3-13 and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Then Brees was signed – the greatest free-agent addition in NFL history – and the Saints became annual contenders for the most part. It likely will be Jameis Winston over Taysom Hill as the primary starting QB replacing the retired Brees this season, and William Hill oddsmakers give the Saints an Over/Under win total of 9.5.

The Denver Broncos haven’t been the same since losing their legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning, to retirement. The New England Patriots definitely weren’t the same last year without their legendary QB, Tom Brady. One could argue, though, that neither the Broncos nor Patriots had a quarterback as talented as the Saints’ duo of Winston, the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick, and dual-threat Hill.

Coach Sean Payton obviously isn’t saying who will be his Week 1 starter, but there’s a reason Winston re-signed when he perhaps could have gone elsewhere and been all but assured the starting job. In 2019 while starting for the Bucs, Winston led the league in passing yards but also became the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 30 TDs and 30 interceptions in a season.

Winston threw only threw 11 passes last season for New Orleans, while Hill started four games (3-1 SU) when Brees was injured. Yes, Hill got a crazy four-year, $140 million extension back in March but that was completely misleading as all years are voidable and it was used to free up cap space this year.

Winston vs. Hill will be arguably the most intriguing training camp battle in the NFL later this summer. The Saints didn’t add any major free agents because they were in the worst shape of any team entering the offseason regarding the salary cap — nearly $100 million over the threshold. What GM Mickey Loomis did instead with his cap gymnastics was release several veterans, re-sign/tag his own key guys where possible or restructure almost every other contract possible.

New Orleans has won the NFC South four years in a row – and then lost in the playoffs in crippling fashion every time – and it’s tough to see that run continuing with the powerful Bucs in the division unless Brady gets injured.

The Saints’ 2021 schedule is ranked as the 22nd-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – visiting the Titans is the 17th game — were a combined 131-140-1 last season.

New Orleans Saints trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds

  • 2020 record: 12-4 (9-6-1 against the spread, 10-6 Over/Under)
  • 2021 strength of schedule rank: 22nd (opponents’ combined winning percentage of .483)
  • 2021 Over/Under win total: 9.5
  • SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 10.1
  • Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +2200
  • To win NFC: +1100
  • To win NFC South: +220
  • To make playoffs: Yes -115, no -105
  • NFL MVP odds: Jameis Winston +5000, Alvin Kamara +8000, Taysom Hill +15000

New Orleans Saints Schedule

Week 1 vs. Green Bay Packers: Green Bay was +3 in New Orleans last year and won 37-30

Week 2 at Carolina Panthers: Carolina has lost past two at home in series by a combined 58 points

Week 3 at New England Patriots: New England has won and covered past two in series

Week 4 vs. New York Giants: New Orleans has covered past two in series, last a 33-18 road win three years ago

Week 5 at Washington Football Team: New Orleans is 3-7 ATS in past 10 meetings (last in 2018)

Week 6 BYE

Week 7 at Seattle Seahawks (MNF): Including playoffs, Saints have covered three straight in series

Week 8 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saints were upset at home by champs 30-20 in last year’s Divisional Round

Week 9 vs. Atlanta Falcons: New Orleans won last year 24-9 and is 7-3 SU & ATS in past 10 at home in series

Week 10 at Tennessee Titans: Added 17th opponent; Titans lost at home to Saints 38-28 in 2019

Week 11 at Philadelphia Eagles: Teams met in Philly last year and Eagles won 24-21 as 7.5-point dogs

Week 12 vs. Buffalo Bills (Thanksgiving): Saints on a five-game SU & ATS winning streak vs. Bills overall  

Week 13 vs. Dallas Cowboys (TNF): Saints won last meeting 12-10 as short dog at home in 2019

Week 14 at New York Jets: Saints on two-game ATS losing streak vs. Jets

Week 15 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (SNF): Saints blasted Tom Brady’s Bucs 38-3 in Tampa last year

Week 16 vs. Miami Dolphins (MNF): New Orleans has won and covered past three overall vs. Fins

Week 17 vs. Carolina Panthers: Carolina has covered spread in past three at home but is 1-2 SU

Week 18 at Atlanta Falcons: New Orleans 3-0 SU & ATS in past three in Atlanta after 21-16 win last year

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