The New Orleans Saints will kick off their season seven weeks from Sunday. Of the 16 games, these 5 stand out above the rest.

5. January 1st, 2017, Week 17 at Atlanta Falcons

Is there any better way to ring in a new year than beating the dirty birds?

Since 2006, the arch rivals have played 20 times, with the Saints winning 15. Prior to 2006, Atlanta led the all-time series 44-30. After 10 years of owning their rivals (including two victories last season), the Saints are now only 4 games behind in the all-time series.

The wildcard in this matchup is if there's a potential wildcard or division title on the line. Last season, the week 17 game at Atlanta didn't have a playoff ramification, but the rivalry was still ample and on full display. Point being, whether a playoff spot is on the line or not, the game is still a must for anyone who considers one self a tried and true Saints fan.

SDrew Brees during his time with the Chargers
Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

4. October 2nd, Week 4 at San Diego Chargers

The two franchises will forever be linked by one man. Drew Brees. This marks his first trip back to San Diego since his time with the Chargers.

The face of the Saints franchise came to New Orleans 11 seasons ago after San Diego, the team who drafted Brees, elected to stick with Philip Rivers, who they drafted in 2004. San Diego let Brees hit free agency after Drew tore his rotator cuff in the final game of the 2005 season, though it was widely reported they weren't going to resign Brees before the injury took place.

Since joining the Saints, Brees has earned a Super Bowl championship, Super Bowl MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors twice (2008, 2011), a 3-time AP NFL All-Pro, 8-time Pro Bowler, Sports Illustrated Man of the Year Award, Bert Bell Award, Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, has led the league in passing 6 times, led the league in touchdowns 4 times, and currently holds the longest streak in NFL history with 8 straight seasons of 4000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdown passes.

"Thank you San Diego"- Saints fans everywhere.

The teams have played twice since Brees became a Saint, with New Orleans winning each contest. In 2008, the Saints beat the Chargers at Wembley Stadium in London. In 2012, New Orleans won at home as Brees surpassed Johnny Unitas' streak for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

The last time New Orleans played at San Diego, Brees dominated...for the Chargers. San Diego won 43-17, as Brees tossed 4 touchdowns.

Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints tackles a Broncos running back
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

3. November 13, Week 9, vs Denver Broncos

The defending Super Bowl Champions come to the Crescent City with one of the best defenses in the league. Who will be Denver's quarterback by week 9? Who knows, but their defense will be fierce.

Strength versus strength at the Mercdes-Benz Superdome as the Saints have an opportunity during a tough stretch in the middle of the season to test their high powered offense against one of the league's best in the Broncos is reason enough to make the list.

Yes, it's another AFC team on a list of top 5 games, but it's a team with Super Bowl pedigree who serve as a great measuring stick in the middle of the season.

Cam Newton (L) and Drew Brees (R)
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

2. October 16th, Week 5, vs Carolina Panthers

Speaking of measuring sticks, the defending NFC South and NFC champion Panthers are being tabbed as the "team to beat" by many NFL pundits. While the Saints/Panthers history isn't as rich as Saints/Falcons, the franchises have met 42 times since Carolina entered the league in 1995 (Car leads all-time series 23-19).

Lately, it's been Cam Newton and Carolina having the Saints number, winning 4 of the last 5, including a heart-wrenching 41-38 loss last year at the Superdome in a topsy-turvy December game. Carolina was undefeated at the time, and may be undefeated when coming to the Dome in week 5 (Vegas lists them as favorites in their first 4 contests).

If the Saints want to be taken seriously by their divisional foe, the only way to do it is on the field. In terms of making statements, the biggest one New Orleans can make is winning the season series against the NFC favorites.

Willie Snead #83 of the New Orleans Saints is brought down by Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

1. September 26th, Week 3, vs Atlanta Falcons

The only primetime game on the Saints schedule holds deeper significance than the rivalry.

When the game kicks off, it will mark 10 years and 1 day since the Saints famous "Return to the Dome" following Hurricane Katrina. Unable to play any home games in 2005 due to Katrina, the Saints returned to the Superdome after 21 months away, with the game serving as a platform of "Rebirth" for the city and region.

Steve Gleason's blocked punt in the first quarter brought the dome to it's loudest decibel level ever. Fans in attendance and watching around the world were brought to tears. The play is commemorated outside the Superdome with a statue.

The Saints won the game 23-3 in what was the highest rated ESPN program ever at that point, and second-highest cable television broadcast. The win improved the Saints record to 3-0 at the time in what was, is, and always will be, a magical season.

This year's week 3 game will celebrate the "Rebirth" game as well as serve as an opportunity to get the first divisional win, and do so against a hated rival.

New Orleans and Atlanta have played one another on Monday Night Football 6 times in their long history. New Orleans has won the last 5.

Here's to another! Who Dat!?

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