Why the Saints picked Jacksonville to host ‘home opener’

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This is one of the few instances where going to Jacksonville is actually a good idea.

The Saints were forced to leave New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida, and will play at least their first home game — Sept. 12 against the Packers — on the road. In somewhat of a surprising move, they chose TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, home of the Jaguars, as their “home stadium” for Week 1.

Why Jacksonville, of all places? Well, it turns out there was a method to the Saints’ madness.

The team is currently practicing in Dallas, and while the Cowboys start on the road, their stadium is unavailable for the NFL’s opening Sunday due to a concert. The league recently ruled that all of their games must be played in NFL stadiums, so they turned to Florida in attempt to stay local to both their practice location and their fan base.

So again, why Jacksonville? Why not Miami or Tampa, both of which have open stadiums on that Sunday? According to Nola.com, the choice was in large part an attempt to keep well-traveled Packers fans out of the “home” game.

Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Getty Images

Miami and Tampa are much bigger travel destinations, especially the former, and would likely see a huge influx of Packers fans. Additionally, with the Buccaneers being the Saints’ division rivals, they feared a number of Tampa Bay fans would show up and root for the Packers.

The Saints reportedly even checked Expedia to see how easy it would be for Green Bay fans to travel to each of the three cities, finding that Jacksonville would be the most difficult and costly of the three options.

The Saints also praised Jacksonville the city, as well as the Jaguars organization for allowing them to step in. But it’s clear that a main priority was to limit the amount of Packers fans. Let’s see if it works.

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