The New Orleans Saints (11-4) enter the final week of the regular season with a fighter's chance of snagging the NFC's lone first-round bye but have to first take care of their own business against the Carolina Panthers (5-10). The Bayou Boys will be without most of their running back corps after contact tracing ruled out Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, and Michael Burton following Alvin Kamara's positive test earlier this week.
Despite being shorthanded, the Saints have enough talent to make NFC South history today. With a victory, the Saints will become the first team in division history to sweep the entire NFC South in a single season.
The Saints News Network Krewe shares their biggest keys to accomplishing the division sweep.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Protecting Drew
Protecting Brees and establishing a running game with Montgomery, Hill, and UDFA rookie Tony Jones Jr. will be the major key to offensive success in this game. The Saints have one of the NFL's most balanced offenses because of an athletic and dominating offensive line. They have more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league and rank 7th in rushing offense, 6th in red-zone efficiency, and 6th in 3rd down conversion percentage. Brees has been sacked just 11 times in ten games and must be given outstanding protection today to find the targets out of his thinned receiving corps.
Kyle T. Mosley
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Oddly Enough, Running the Football
No Star Rusher. No Rushers Period! No Problem. The Saints still have Ty Montgomery and Taysom Hill. Both have excellent rushing skills. Taysom would need to be more patient and allow the blocks to set up in front of him, but he should be good to go if needed.
Montgomery is a blend of Kamara and for Saints running back Reggie Bush, in my opinion. The ability to catch out the backfield and be effective in space are his best attributes.
Ex-Notre Dame all-star Tony Jones, Jr. will be seeking to make an impression on the Saints' coaching staff. Jones was a versatile player for the Fighting Irish. He could another possibility for the Saints at running back going into next season based on how he performs this afternoon.
The rushing element will take the pressure off of Brees and his young receiving squad. If New Orleans can gain over 120 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground versus the Panthers, expect a Saints clean sweep of the NFC South.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Get in and Get Out
This has been anything but a quiet week for the Saints. They find themselves without a ton of their running backs, mainly Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. The good news is that the offensive line is healthy, but it's tough to say veteran Ty Montgomery and undrafted rookie Tony Jones Jr. can compensate for the loss. Of course, we'll gladly take being pleasantly surprised.
For New Orleans, they can still get the top seed in the NFC, but they have to take care of business first. Regardless of how things play out, the Saints need to replicate last year's finale against the Panthers and get to rest their starters. We'll pay close attention to the other games, but Sean Payton's squad has to make do with who they have available.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: A Vintage Drew Brees Performance
It might the last curtain call of the 2020 season and the Saints have pulled out all the stops! There is a lot at stake in this season finale. The Saints’ most valuable player for Week 17, Alvin Kamara, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Saints. His positive test results have him out of the Panthers game, and the entire team’s running back corps because of close contact tracing to Kamara.
The Carolina Panthers trail the Saints in the all-time series, 25-27. The Panthers have played the New Orleans Saints more than any other team in its history. And in the team's 53rd all-time matchup, the Saints can make history with a win in Carolina. How? By becoming the first team to ever sweep the entire NFC South.
A clean sweep of the NFC South would be a first within the division since NFL realignment in 2002. Drew Brees, the Saints’ defense and secondary, will have to have their best game of the season. Let’s see the Saints make history today.
Biggest Key to Saints Victory: Overcome Adversity...Again
The 2020 season has been full of adversity for the New Orleans Saints dating all the way back to June. Between the off-season locker room problems, injury to Michael Thomas, a COVID scare, starting a QB making his first career start, and multiple injures throughout the second half of the season, sitting at 11-4, and having a division crown in hand does not sound too bad.
Sunday provides another test for the Saints, who will be without most of their running back room following COVID-19 contact tracing. Ty Montgomery II and Tony Jones Jr. will be serving as the Saints running backs. It may not be a pretty game offensively but this team has proven to be a resilient day in and day out, they just have to do it one more time in the regular season.
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