When the New Orleans Saints defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16, they accomplished every single regular season goal possible. The Saints are in the playoffs with a first-round bye and have home-field advantage until at least Super Bowl LIII. With no way to have their seed affected in the NFC, the starters may not end up playing the whole time which would give players like Teddy Bridgewater some time on the field.
After the Saints defeated the Steelers and secured home-field advantage, head coach Sean Payton was asked about resting his starters against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. With the question being presented to him repeatedly, Payton finally laid it out for everyone as reported by the NFL website.
“I’m going to specify for the fourth time — you ready? — I can’t be any more clear, all right? We’re going to approach this game just like we would a regular-season game, and if there’s any changes to the lineups, I’ll keep you posted. I’m done answering that question. That’s four in the last 24 hours.”
As the week has gone on, though, things appear to have changed a bit even though Payton hasn’t said differently. New Orleans certainly doesn’t want to risk injuries to Drew Brees or Alvin Kamara or Cam Jordan or Marshon Lattimore or any starter on either side of the ball.
Until Payton says differently, the starters will be playing for the Saints on Sunday. Still, some players truly believe they won’t be in the game for the full 60 minutes.
According to ESPN, Sean Payton is going to play things safe and may end up playing his starters for a short period of time against the Panthers. There are a couple of milestones that the team could reach on Sunday:
- Drew Brees needs eight yards to hit 4,000 passing yards for the season. Brees has surpassed 4,000 yards passing in each season since arriving in New Orleans.
- Michael Thomas needs 24 yards for the Saints’ all-time single-season receiving yards record (Joe Horn with 1,399 yards).
- If the Saints win, they would finish the season 14-2 which would be the most wins in history.
With the starters likely to rest a good bit in the season finale, that could mean the true Saints debut of Teddy Bridgewater. New Orleans traded for him earlier this season and he’s continued to be the back-up for Brees ever since that time with only appearing in four games and throwing a small handful of passes.
Sunday may mark the moment that he finally gets some decent playing time to show his teammate and the NFL what he can do. It could very well end up helping him as he’s set to become a free agent in March of 2019.
If Sean Payton is going to play his starters, it likely won’t be more than just a series or possibly the first quarter at the most. Once they get a little playing time in, a majority of them will sit and the back-ups, such as Teddy Bridgewater, will come in against the Carolina Panthers. The New Orleans Saints need this time to heal up a few injured players and prepare for the playoffs where the road to the Super Bowl goes through the Superdome.
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