Which future matchups could the Saints see?

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It somehow flew under the radar last year, but the NFL revised and expanded its rules for scheduling games in its international series (you can read the official breakdown from NFL.com here). And the New Orleans Saints will be one of the first teams to introduce the new approach, which we’ll get to in a moment.

These changes are big. They mandate that teams will play at an international venue no more than once per season, and that they will only lose one home game every eight seasons. The Saints are getting that out of the way early by playing one of their three AFC opponents in London in 2022.

That brings us to the next point. All of these games will be AFC versus NFC matchups, which means the Saints will not be facing an NFC South rival abroad as has been mistakenly reported elsewhere. And because we can refer to the NFL’s scheduling formula to determine which teams the Saints will face in future years (more specifically, which AFC teams they’ll play on the road) we can put together a list of opponents for each of the next few seasons.

As for where these international matchups will be played: two or three games will be played in London (with the Jacksonville Jaguars volunteering to play a home game at Wembley Stadium in 2022, and others kicking off from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium), another tilt will be held in Germany (rotating between FC Bayern Munich Stadium and Frankfurt Stadium), and other options are on the table in Mexico and Canada. There are lucrative markets out there beyond America’s borders, and the NFL is determined to tap into them.

On a related note, the NFL awarded international marketing rights to various teams in select nations, which could factor into which teams are playing there most often. We’ll reference that as well in each segment, and you can read more on that process here. But let’s circle back to the Saints. Here are the year-by-year eligible opponents they could see on an international stage over the next four seasons:

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Eligible opponents:

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Las Vegas Raiders (AFC West same-place finisher from 2021)

While there’s going to be a big push from locals to welcome Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and other Bengals players with Louisiana ties, that game may end up being the one going overseas. Consider the team’s perspective: the last thing they want is a ton of LSU-turned-Cincinnati fans filling up the Superdome and turning a Saints home game into a road game by cheering for the visiting team.

Because teams may protect games from being moved internationally each season, the only way the Saints play the Bengals away from New Orleans is if they sign off on it. If they feel hosting the Raiders or Ravens is a better matchup for them, that’s the direction the Saints will go. So there’s a chance that fans of Burrow, Chase, and other Bengals players will have to wait until at least 2024 (when the Saints will see the AFC North same-place finisher, which may be Cincinnati, at home) to see them play in New Orleans.

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Eligible opponents:

  • Houston Texans (awarded Mexico market)
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • AFC East same-place finisher from 2022 (New England Patriots awarded Germany market; Miami Dolphins and New York Jets each awarded United Kingdom market)

We know that the Saints won’t lose another home game to this international series for a while, meaning their eligible opponents in 2023 are all on the road anyway. Of the six qualifying teams, only two (the Josh Allen-led Buffalo Bills and Mac Jones’ New England Patriots) appear set at both quarterback and head coach. Every other squad has some serious questions to answer between now and 2023’s kickoff. And if any of these teams hosted international games in 2022, they’ll be off the board for 2023.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eligible opponents:

  • Las Vegas Raiders (awarded Mexico market)
  • Denver Broncos (awarded Mexico market)

So it’ll be one or the other for the Saints in 2024. They’re hosting the AFC North same-place finisher from 2023 this year, and because they won’t have to lose another home game to the international series until 2030 we already know which two options the Saints will have on deck. Maybe the Broncos have a quarterback by now. Maybe Josh McDaniels has gotten himself thrown out of another AFC West gig. Only time will tell. If either team hosted an international game in 2022 or 2023, they won’t be an option for 2024. Coincidentally, this will be the first year the Saints get a full nine-game home schedule in New Orleans.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eligible opponents:

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins (awarded United Kingdom market)
  • AFC South same-place finisher from 2024 (Houston Texans awarded Mexico market; Jacksonville Jaguars awarded United Kingdom market)

This is the year Alvin Kamara turns 30, to give you an idea of how far out we’re talking. Josh Allen will be 29 when the 2025 season starts if that adds more context. It’s way too early to forecast anything of substance about these matchups, though off the cuff I’d like to see the Saints play a road game in mild Germany or Mexico rather than likely-snowy Buffalo. As was the case in past years, any of these teams that previously lost a home game to the international series in 2022, 2023, or 2024 won’t be eligible for 2025.

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