New Orleans Saints are in uncharted territory in final games of the season

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

Normally at this time of the season the Saints would have had a lock on a playoff spot – this is a new season.

NFC South’s four-game winning streak in New Orleans has ended eerily this season. Injuries, COVID-19 and inconsistencies plagued the 2021-22 team.

New Orleans’ home record of 1-5 no longer poses a threat to opponents entering the confines of the Caesars Superdome. The key game against Carolina will be another example of how the Saints move forward in an uncertain future in Sean Payton’s day.

In the past, fighting Carolina and Atlanta would have been little more than the icing on the cake. Sam Darnold and Matt Ryan looked like All-Pro quarterbacks knocking out the Saints in Weeks 2 and 9.

New Orleans’ playoff prospects are on the line and need an exceptional defensive performance more than ever this season.

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

The Panthers’ pass rush blurred the offensive line in week two. Could the return of defensive end Brian Burns and linebacker Shaq Thompson further complicate New Orleans’ offensive woes?

The Saints need points. Finding a way to generate scores on a consistent basis is the key before any opportunity on an NFC Wild Card berth.

Whether and how Coach Payton kept the team in a position for the playoffs is rather remarkable. The Saints are two games away from accomplishing a feat that many would have considered impossible. Fielding a team with an NFL record of 57 new starters isn’t a formula for winning at any level, but we are there.

The reserve / COVID-19 list Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins activations give the defense a huge boost. Also, it gives the team a fighting chance to get closer to their preseason goal – the playoffs.

John Madden (left) and commentator Pat Summerall

The Saints haven’t relied on playoff scenarios in years. That day, I could hear legend John Madden talking to Pat Summerall if they delivered the New Orleans pre-game analysis to viewers. In his gruff and entertaining voice, “The best way for the Saints to keep their playoff hopes up is simple, Pat. Win! And next week, win again!”

Can the Saints beat the odds and go about business against the Panthers?

We will see.

Blanket of saints during week 17

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