The 2012 NFL regular season schedule has been released and we now know who will be playing who, along with when and where those games will take place. There are a lot of key matchups in primetime this year, and it seems as if the scheduling has played right into the big storylines of the NFL. How will Peyton Manning do in Denver? Will Tebow get playing time in New York as a Jet? How will the Saints overcome their bounty penalties?

One thing I've learned over time is that no matter how good things look on paper, once the NFL action starts, anything goes. There is really no way to predict who will do what in this upcoming 2012 NFL regular season, but as a Saints fan and a season ticket holder, I do know what games I'm anticipating the most.

These are the 10 games that I can hardly wait for.

Week 1 [Sunday, September 9]

"time to set the tone in the dome"


This game will be the one that sets the tone for the season. This will be a Saints team minus head coach Sean Payton coming out of one of the most distracting off-seasons in team history. The first game of the regular season will be in the dome and the Who Dat Nation's resilience will be in full force. I'm not sure if anything will ever compare to that first home game in the dome after Katrina, but given all the crap that the Saints have been faced with recently, it may be pretty damn close. The Redskins are more than likely going to select QB Robert Griffin III in the upcoming draft, so if we face a rookie quarterback in his first regular season NFL game, we must take full advantage. This is a 'must win' for the Saints to send a clear message to the rest of the NFL: "You can knock us down, but we are gonna get right back up." Oh, and my sales manager/buddy Frank is coming with me to this game and he is a huge Redskins fan. One of us won't have a job on Monday morning.

week 4 [Sunday, September 30]

"Heading To Lambeau To Face The Packers"


After facing the Skins, the Panthers and the Chiefs in the first 3 weeks of the regular season, Week 4 brings the Saints to storied Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. This will be the first big test for our new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and a win at Lambeau will also mean a leg up in playoff seeding down the line. Last year's matchup between these two offensive powerhouses was a classic matchup that literally went down to the wire. Expect nothing different - except for the outcome, of course ;)

week 5 [Sunday, October 7]

"Sunday Night Football Against Brees' Former Team"


Week 5 will feature the Saints' first primetime game of the year, which means that America will get to hear the talking heads on NBC go on and on about Sean Payton's suspension, Drew Brees elongated contract talks, and last but not least, 'Bountygate.' Hopefully the Saints will be 4-0 at this point to balance out the inevitable negative chatter, and go on to do what we normally do in primetime at the dome. Oh and in case you forgot, the San Diego Chargers are the organization that didn't believe enough in Darren Sproles or Drew Brees to keep them around. That small fun fact is enough to get me excited for this one.

Week 8 [Sunday, October 28]

"Visiting A Guy Named Peyton Manning On A Sunday Night"


By the time Week 8 rolls around the Saints will be playing in primetime for the second time in two weeks. This one will be big because Joe Vitt will be returning from a six game suspension due to his involvement in the 'Bountygate' scandal. The anticipation will also be high because for the first time since the Saints topped the Colts in Super Bowl 44 back in 2009, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will go head to head on the gridiron. For all we know the Broncos could be winless at this point, and Manning may not even be around if he re-injures his neck. At this point, we can only look at it as one of the biggest primetime games of the year.

Week 9 [Monday, November 5]

"monday night football At Home Against Vick & The Eagles"


For the second week in a row, and the third time in four weeks, Week 9 puts the Saints back in primetime as they face off with an old NFC South foe. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will be coming down to the dome in New Orleans to face-off with Drew Brees in the Saints only Monday Night appearance of the season. This will be another defensive challenge for the Saints due to the mobility of Michael Vick and a little speedster named DeSean Jackson. Birds usually don't do well in the dome, which brings us to the next matchup.

Week 10 [Sunday, November 11]

"The Dirty Birds Come To The Superdome"


I hate the Atlanta Falcons. Any other real Saints fan will tell you the exact same thing. Even when the Saints were in the NFC West, the Falcons were our #1 division rival. Despite the bleak outlook on the season the Saints have a shot at winning the division, but they must sweep the Atlanta Falcons to lock up the division and maybe even snag homefield advantage in the playoffs. The Falcons are probably still bitter over that 2011 game where Drew Brees broke Marino's all-time passing record on them in a 45-16 routing, so they probably won't be too happy to see us. Nevertheless, Week 10 will have the dome rockin' and the Dirty Birds don't stand a chance. Did I mention how much I hate the Atlanta Falcons?

Week 12 [Sunday, November 25]

"Unfinished Business Against The San Francisco 49ers"


By now you have probably heard the incriminating audio of Gregg Williams telling his players to go out and "kill the heads" of the San Francisco 49ers. Even though the leaked audio was a huge part of the 'Bountygate' investigation, his speech didn't work too well because the Saints season ended the next day at Candlestick and the Niners went on to advance in the playoffs. Our defense played horribly and despite the miraculous efforts from Drew Brees, we couldn't overcome Alex Smith and Vernon Davis. Look for us to get payback during Week 12 at home in the dome.

Week 13 [Thursday, November 29]

"Thursday Night Rematch In ATL"


I have already expressed my hatred for the Atlanta Falcons, and just like our other division rivals, we must face these lowlifes twice during the regular season. In our second season meeting of the year we only have a few days to prepare being that the game is on a Thursday Night, and we will have played the 49ers just 4 days prior. The game is in Atlanta, so the Falcons will have homefield advantage, but for the fourth time in the regular season the Saints will be on primetime TV. Week 13, we will murder the Falcons, in Atlanta. End of story.

Week 14 [Sunday December 9]

"Going To The Big Apple To Face The Defending Champs"


Nothing pissed me off more last season than losing in the playoffs to San Francisco at the last minute. I was DETERMINED that if we played the Giants in the dome in the NFC Championship, that we would almost certainly kick their asses just like we did earlier in the season and head to the Super Bowl for ultimate victory. But that didn't happen. So now, we must go to New York and remind them that they lucked out big time last year by having their road to the Super Bowl travel through San Fran instead of New Orleans. Can you tell I'm still pissed about that?

Week 16 [Sunday, December 23]

"A Trip To Dallas That Has Been A Long Time Coming"


If there is a non-NFC South team out there that could be considered a Saints "rival," then it would have to be the Dallas Cowboys. There are so many different reasons why. First of all, Sean Payton is a former assistant coach in Dallas and ever since he has taken over as head coach for the New Orleans Saints, the games have been extra intense. But, guess what? He's out, so none of that matters. Another reason why New Orleans vs. Dallas has so much hype built up is because back in the day when the Saints weren't nearly the force that they are today, many Louisiana fans rooted for the Cowboys. It was hard to NOT to root for the Cowboys in their hay day, especially in the 90's with Aikman, Smith and Irvin winning multiple Super Bowl Championships. Even I was a Dallas fan in the 90's, when my entire adolescent world consisted only of school, sports and video games. Thank goodness for my dad, I was also a Saints fan, and that was the team that I stuck by moving into my adult years. My co-worker Chris Reed from the Hot 107.9 morning show on the other hand, is a die-hard Cowboys fan to the bone. The weekend of December 23rd, I plan on making this the one away game that I travel to this season. I will finally see Cowboys Stadium and I will also witness the Cowgirls get dismantled firsthand. In all seriousness, this game may very well hold wild-card playoff implications, and hopefully I'll get my Christmas gift two days early this year. The countdown to Week 16 is on. Let the trash talking begin.

So there it is. The 10 games that I'm looking forward to the most in the New Orleans Saints upcoming 2012 season. Without our coaches, without our GM, and with inevitable defensive player suspensions our backs will definitely be against the wall, and it will be us against the world.

To the rest of the NFL: 'We comin'


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