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Saints Charting Unfamiliar Territory for the Final Games

The New Orleans Saints find themselves in unfamiliar territory with two games remaining in the 2021-22 regular season.

The New Orleans Saints find themselves in unfamiliar territory with two games remaining in the 2021-22 regular season.

Unfamiliar Territory

Normally, by this time of the season, the Saints would have had a lock on a playoff berth — this is a new season.

New Orleans' run of four-consecutive NFC South titles bizarrely ended this season. Injuries, COVID-19, and inconsistencies have plagued the 2021-22 team.  

New Orleans' home record of 1-5 no longer poses a threat to opponents entering the confines of Caesars Superdome. The key matchup against Carolina will be another example of how the Saints are treading an uncertain future within the Sean Payton era. 

In the past, battling Carolina and Atlanta would have been a little more than icing on the cake. Sam Darnold and Matt Ryan resembled All-Pro quarterbacks taking down the Saints in Weeks 2 and 9.

The New Orleans postseason hopes hang in the balance and need a stellar defensive performance more than ever this season.   

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Taysom Hill leads the field of 19 players returning from being lineup scratches in Week 16 due to positive COVID-19 tests. Which is great news for the Saints.  Still, the offense's continuity will be challenged with starting tackles Terron Armstead (knee) and Ryan Ramczyk (knee) out of Sunday's contest. 

The pass rush of the Panthers troubled the offensive line in Week 2. Could the return of defensive end Brian Burns and linebacker Shaq Thompson further complicate the offensive issues for New Orleans? 

The Saints need points.  Finding a way to generate scoring on a consistent basis is the key ahead of any opportunity at an NFC Wild Card berth.

If and how Coach Payton has kept the team in a position for the postseason is rather remarkable. The Saints are two games away from accomplishing a feat many would have considered impossible. Fielding a team with an NFL record of 57 new starters is not a formula for winning at any level, but here we are.

Marcus Williams' and Malcolm Jenkins' activations from the reserve/COVID-19 list give the defense a tremendous boost. Also, it provides the team with a fighting chance to move closer to their preseason goal - the playoffs.

John Madden (left) and commentator Pat Summerall

The Saints haven't counted on playoff scenarios for years. On this day, I could hear the legend John Madden talking to Pat Summerall if they were delivering New Orleans' pregame analysis for viewers. In his gruff and entertaining voice, "The best way for the Saints to keep their postseason hopes alive is simple, Pat. Win! And next week, win again!" 

Can the Saints beat the odds and take care of business versus the Panthers?

We shall see.

 Saints Coverage in Week 17