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What you missed this week with the New Orleans Saints

A look at some of the biggest Saints news and notes from the week of December 17th.

NFL: New York Jets at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are with two games left on the regular season schedule, as the NFL moves into Week 16. Sean Payton put it perfectly for the New Orleans Saints, saying that the playoffs start now for his team. It won’t be easy with the Atlanta Falcons coming to town, but there’s a growing rally cry for the Superdome crowd. Here’s a few things you may or may not have missed this week with the black and gold.

Quick Hits

  • Kenny Vaccaro and A.J. Klein were both sent to injured reserve this week, which are two big blows for Dennis Allen’s defense. Sterling Moore was brought back in place of Vaccaro. One thing we’d change about this Saints season, if we had a magic wand, would be the injury bug.
  • If you’re going to the game, the Saints will be black on black. Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis have the call for this big divisional clash. Side note that no one cares about, the team is 2-6 with Burkhardt calling the game. The win against the Dolphins in Week 4 broke the six-game losing streak. Pete Morelli is the referee, so we have to hope for no phantom timeouts.
  • Three Saints, Trey Hendrickson (ankle), Garrett Griffin (foot), and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), have been ruled out for Sunday. The team has just two tight ends against the Falcons, Josh Hill and the recently acquired John Phillips. The good news is that guards Larry Warford (concussion) and Andrus Peat (groin) and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (rib) all practiced in full and don’t have any designations.
  • Marshon Lattimore won his third Pepsi Rookie of the Week award for his performance against the Jets. The Saints have a total of nine this season, with the Packers being the next closest with three.
  • Speaking of Lattimore, he was one of six Saints to get named to the Pro Bowl. Joining him are Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Cameron Jordan.
  • New Orleans can win the NFC South this week, but they’re going to need some help. First and foremost, they have to take care of their own business. That at least gets them into the postseason for the first time since 2013. Then, they have to hope for a Buccaneers upset victory over the Panthers.
  • Texas Longhorns linebacker Malik Jackson is the hot name paired to the Saints in the ridiculously and hilariously way too early mock draft bedlam. I don’t disagree with a linebacker for next season, but can we at least get through this season? Be sure to check out John Sigler’s offseason wish list, which starts the debate on the most important positions to address in 2018.
  • SB Nation is running a fan survey asking how we can improve, so if you have 3-5 minutes to spare, fill it out.

NFL player bonuses: Gronk, others chasing millions of dollars - NFL Nation- ESPN
Mark Ingram RB

Salary: $5.345 million

Bonuses: Ingram’s contract will void a year early, making him a free agent after this season if he is named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. The All-Pro team has one running back spot and one flex position for the entire league, regardless of conference.

Cameron Jordan, DE

Salary: $7 million

Bonuses: His 2018 salary will escalate by $250,000 if he reaches 13 sacks this year, by another $500,000 if he reaches 15 sacks and by another $500,000 if he reaches 17 sacks, for a maximum of $1.25 million. Jordan currently has 10 sacks with two games left to play.

Craig Robertson, LB

Salary: $1.105 million

Bonuses: He will earn $100,000 if he plays 40 percent or more of the defensive snaps this year, another $200,000 for 50 percent, another $400,000 for 60 percent, another $400,000 for 70 percent and another $400,000 for 80 percent, for a maximum of $1.5 million. Robertson has played 72.1 percent of the Saints’ defensive snaps so far, though his playing time should remain high over the final two weeks with starting linebacker A.J. Klein now on injured reserve.

Senio Kelemete, OL

Salary: $1.275 million

Bonuses: He will earn $200,000 if he plays 50 percent or more of the offensive snaps this year, another $200,000 for 60 percent and another $200,000 for 70 percent, for a maximum of $600,000. Kelemete has played 60 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps so far, and his playing time could remain high if starting guard Larry Warford is sidelined this week by a concussion.

Manti Te’o, LB

Salary: $850,000

Bonuses: He will earn $200,000 if he plays 65 percent or more of the defensive snaps this year, another $300,000 for 75 percent and another $500,000 for 85 percent, for a maximum of $1 million. Te’o has played 43.6 percent of the Saints’ defensive snaps so far, so it seems impossible for him to reach those goals even with Klein now on injured reserve. Te’o also earns a bonus of $31,250 for each game on the active 46-man roster. He has played in 14 games this year.

That’s the hope, right? You offer the incentive-based contracts to players and want to see them cash in. Obviously, the one to keep an eye on here is Mark Ingram. I’m not saying he isn’t worthy of being named a first-team All-Pro, but the guys ahead of him (Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, and Jordan Howard) might claim that spot for just one back.

Saints already have made more interceptions than any season since 2009 |
The Saints picked off 15 passes in 2012, but otherwise have had no more than 12 in a season since '09.

"It has a lot to do with the players, having a talented group back there," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "It goes into their ability to study the game plan, their ability to study the tape, formation tendencies and things they can expect."

That’s pretty impressive, especially remembering how atrocious that 2012 season was. Obviously, scoring more points off of turnovers would be a point of emphasis (like Darren Sharper did), but it’s still a reason to rejoice. Let’s hope we get more in the postseason.

New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Ticket Sweepstakes
Saints fans can win a VIP trip to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis

Looking for a chance to go to the Super Bowl? You're in luck! New Orleans Saints fans can enter the "Saints Super Bowl Ticket Sweepstakes" to receive a three-night trip for two. The trip includes two round-trip tickets from New Orleans (MSY), a three-night stay at a hotel, and two tickets to Super Bowl LII. The sweepstakes began at noon Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 and ends at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018.

There’s just something about having the Saints play for the Super Bowl up in Minnesota that makes me go all evil Grinch smile. Please happen, please.

After years being underrated, Mark Ingram's 'heart and soul' helping carry Saints |
"I just try not to worry about it," he said. "I could say people sleep on me or don't give me enough credit, but I don't do it for them or for the credit. You like to be rewarded for your performance, you like to be noticed for your performance, but, at the end of the day, I just do it to help my team win games.

"I try to be at my best and play at a high level for my teammates, for my brothers on this team, so we can win games and we can have the best chance to win a championship."

I’m sure we can all remember the days of the Mark Ingram slander, as it has shifted tremendously since he broke out (so to speak) against the Eagles in the 2013 playoffs. Ingram just turned 28, and assuming he doesn’t void his contract, will be 29 when he hits free agency again in 2019. He has a real opportunity to become the franchise’s top running back.

Saints' Marshon Lattimore ready for rematch with Julio Jones, 'one of the best' |
"I'm trying to go out there and beat him," Lattimore said. "That's my mentality. To win. It's Julio, but he straps up just like I do. He does everything just like I do. He's a man just like I'm a man. I've got to try to go out there and beat him up."

This might be many’s focal point of the rematch, but not for me. I’m more concerned about how the Saints match up against Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. No Klein and Vaccaro in the mix, and this would be a perfect time to have Alex Anzalone. Unfortunately, they have to make due with what they have, and we have to hope it works out.