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There’s still the entire month of July to get through before the New Orleans Saints kick off training camp, so let’s talk hypotheticals. We’ve got time for it. In this scenario, the NFL announces that it’s going to realign all of its divisions — allowing new teams to join new divisions and establish new rivalries across the league.

On top of that, you won a lottery drawing and you, specifically, get to decide which three teams should compete with the Saints for the NFC South title each year. How much do you change, and what’s your reasoning? We’ll have a poll embedded at the bottom to see what readers are thinking.

As for me: it isn’t the NFC South without the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is New Orleans’ oldest rival, and a team the Saints have faced more than any other (103 times, stretching back to their time together in the old NFC West’s basement). It’s vital to preserve that history, as well as the opportunity for New Orleans to take over the all-time win-loss record — for now, the Saints narrowly trail 51-52, with another season sweep in 2021 swinging things back their way.

That leaves us with two vacancies to fill. Both the expansion-era Carolina Panthers (Saints’ all-time record: 27-25) and the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Saints own them, 37-21) can hit the road. Carolina was an entertaining threat to the Saints with Cam Newton at quarterback, but the Bucs’ rivalry has always felt forced. We can do better.

It’s important to me, personally, to avoid cold weather games. Those are a nightmare for travel conditions and no one enjoys playing in the snow (even if it makes for great TV). Some shared history with the Saints would be ideal, too. It would be fun, sure, to see the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams twice a year in an old school revival. But let’s not fly out to the West Coast any more often than we need to. Long-distance flights aren’t fun for anyone.

I want the Dallas Cowboys twice a year. All credit to them, their shiny home at AT&T Stadium, a.k.a. “Jerry World,” is one of the greatest venues in the game. The Saints look great on their turf, especially when they’re running the Cowboys off of it. It’s a short flight from New Orleans to Dallas, or a manageable drive clocking in just under eight hours. Both fan bases travel well and have a built-in geographic rivalry. For added incentive, the winner gets Shreveport.

Sure, the Cowboys have their own theoretical rivalries in the NFC East. But come one. Nobody cares about those games. The annual regular season finale between a terrible Cowboys team and an awful Giants squad on a Sunday night is one of the worst games of the year. Good ratings from their big fanbases don’t equal an entertaining series to watch year after year. And unlike New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, Dallas isn’t even in the eastern time zone.

So that gives us the Saints, Falcons, and the Cowboys. The fourth choice has a lot of potential. One creative pick would be the Miami Dolphins — that gives fans a great weekend in a beautiful city, against a team that has struggled to remain competitive over the years (even if the Dolphins appear close to turning the corner now), and playing an hour ahead in a different time zone isn’t that big of a deal. Flights are relatively affordable and brisk, too. There’s a lot to be said for an annual, winnable game under the Florida sun. Everyone wins, except the Dolphins, who haven’t beaten the Saints since Sean Payton was hired as head coach.

On the other hand, let’s stay in the Lone Star State and consider the Houston Texans. The potential single-season sweep of both Houston and Dallas would make for incredible “Texas State Champs” shirts and signs for fans. Traveling is easy; flights barely have time to pull up their landing gear before dropping again, while driving is a quick five hours, mostly on Interstate 10. Like with the Cowboys, there’s a geographic rivalry built into this matchup, and the strong population of New Orleanians who went west to Houston after Hurricane Katrina makes it personal for many families.

What about the rest of the current AFC South? The Indianapolis Colts are too far north for my tastes, while the Jacksonville Jaguars have similar boring East Coast vibes to the Panthers without the glamor of Miami’s South Beach. But the Tennessee Titans are an intriguing fit.

The Titans have really gotten the Saints’ goat in recent years (which I detailed here, though New Orleans did win what matters on the field), and it would be fun to face one of the NFL’s hotter teams more regularly. Tennessee has an underrated fanbase and real star talent on offense, with a good coach in Mike Vrabel keeping them competitive in every game they play. Nashville is a great city and convenient enough for Saints fans to visit, either through a four-hour flight or an eight-hour road trip, and the rivalry could really take off this deep in SEC country. These matchups would never be boring.

I’m stuck with a toss-up between those three options: Miami, Houston, or Tennessee. Any of them would be better than Carolina or Tampa Bay. Putting them head to head like this, I think I’ve got to go with the Titans. That presents the most compelling challenge for the Saints, plus some variety in the weather at higher latitudes than Dallas or Atlanta. But I’m definitely open to the other options.

I also polled Saints Wire contributors Kade Kistner and Maddy Hudak about which teams they’d like to see join New Orleans in a brand-new NFC South. Their takes:

Kistner: “First would have to be the Falcons. As much as we hate the Falcons, we love to hate the Falcons even more. We hate ’em, but we gotta have ’em. Titans would be the next pick. Visiting Nashville at least once a year would be a blast. They also represent a team that has the potential to be very good every single season. You need a team like that to keep the division interesting. Finally, give me the Jaguars. You need a team you can beat up on every single season not named the Falcons. Plus, I currently live in Jacksonville so the travel time would be drastically reduced to watch the Saints play each year, by like eight hours.”

Hudak: “I have to keep the Falcons as well. 28-3 is too funny to relinquish and they’re the epitome of the rivalry you love to hate. Especially with Terry Fontenot over in the front office now, I’m genuinely curious to see out his rebuild plan. Next, let’s throwback to the NFC West and bring back the 49ers. They may as well be a divisional rival by the amount of disdain between the two fanbases, and even with injuries those matchups to me are always a coin flip. Finally, to round out this friendly division, let’s throw in America’s Team in the Cowboys. Historically, it’s a competitive matchup with Dallas holding 17 wins to New Orleans 13. Often feels like a wakeup call game for either opponent; Tony Romo’s commentary on these games would be an all-timer.”

But who would you choose? Are you as invested in the Saints-Falcons rivalry as we are, or do you feel more strongly about the other NFC South teams? Or would you take the division apart down to its foundations and choose three entirely new opponents for the Saints? Make your choices in the poll embedded below: