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What you missed this week with the New Orleans Saints

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A look at some of the biggest Saints news and notes from the week of January 14th.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints will be sitting at home watching the NFC Championship game between the Vikings and Eagles on Sunday, pondering what could have been. It was quite an emotional roller coaster last week, and plenty has happened since then. Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories and notes related to the black and gold you may or may not have missed.

Quick Hits

  • This Thomas Morstead things is pretty awesome. His sportsmanship and grit hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Vikings fans have flooded his What You Give Will Grow foundation with donations. It’s over $220,000 as of Friday evening.
  • Terron Armstead and Trey Hendrickson were both fined $18,231 against the Vikings. Armstead had an unnecessary roughness call for a horse-collar tackle, while Hendrickson had a roughing the passer call.
  • Be sure to check out the Top 10 salary cap hits for the Saints in 2018.
  • The team signed 10 players to reserve/future deals, which include: Adam Bighill, Travin Dural, De’Vante Harris, Alex Ellis, Gabe Ikard, Alex Jenkins, Nate Theaker, Landon Turner, Shayne Skov, and Mykkele Thompson.
  • Drew Brees turned 39 on Monday. His boys received a pretty cool gift from Sean Payton to coach in the Pro Bowl.
  • Speaking of Sean Payton, way to pay it forward.
  • ESPN’s Bill Barnwell gave the team a 9.5 win over/under for the 2018 season.
  • Mock drafts are in full force, so you can either embrace them or grab your barf bags at this point. Mel Kiper gave the Saints a wide receiver, Courtland Sutton out of SMU. They’ll pick 27th, if you missed it.
  • The East-West Shrine Game, Collegiate Bowl, and Senior Bowl are right around the corner. The Saints have had some success nabbing prospects from these games. Take a look.
  • Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore took down PWFA’s Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. Kamara is sharing it with Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt.

Saints tight end Josh Hill's playoff performance was best 2-game stretch of career | NOLA.com
With a total of six catches for 103 yards, Hill was nearly as productive as a receiver in two postseason games as he was in 16 regular season games as he finished 2017 with 16 catches for 125 yards. Hill had just one gain of 20-plus yards in the regular season, and he had two in the playoffs.

"My number was called," Hill said on Tuesday. "I just didn't want to let my teammates down. Big-time game, just wanted to do my part. That's all it was."

Playoff Josh Hill was certainly what we wanted to see. The Saints will probably need a couple of tight ends in 2018, especially with a large Coby Fleener contract decision looming. If Hill can consistently play like he did in the playoffs, then that can help alleviate some of the issues for the Saints offense.

Sean Payton making Saints NFL's most hated team this side of Patriots | NOLA.com
If you're keeping track, in the past five weeks Payton has:

Brandished the choke sign at Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

Engaged in a bizarre midfield slap fight with Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter.

Broken out a broom in his post-game locker room to taunt the Panthers.

And mocked Minnesota Vikings fans from the sidelines with a Skol clap during the waning seconds of the Saints-Vikings playoff game on Sunday.

If Payton is on some kind of Make the Saints Hated Again campaign, he's accomplishing his mission.

He has single-handedly turned the Saints, one of the most likable group of players you'd ever want to meet, into the NFL's most despised team this side of New England.

I couldn’t disagree more. If Sean Payton wants to be portrayed as an a**hole, then so be it. You think the Saints just got back into the playoffs and such because Payton was a ‘nice guy’? I don’t see anything wrong with the gloating or getting ‘animated’. The only issue I have is you have to be able to finish. I’m sure the ‘heavily despised’ Saints will have at least 4-5 prime time appearances in 2018.

Wil Lutz rewards Saints faith with arguably the best season a kicker's had for Sean Payton | theadvocate.com
He backed that up by spending the entire offseason and training camp without bringing in a serious challenger to Lutz's spot.

"He's a player's coach," Lutz said of Payton. "He signs people here for a reason. He doesn't sign them to not have their backs. I think he would do that for anybody."

Lutz made 31 of 36 kicks, tying Morten Andersen's 1985 season and John Carney's 2002 season for the most makes in franchise history. He knocked field goals through the uprights at an 86-percent clip and made 4 of 5 kicks from beyond 50 yards during the regular season — more than any other Saints kicker since Doug Brien made 4 of 6 in 1998.

"Knowing you're the guy going into it helped a lot," Lutz said.

The days of having to close your eyes (well, we still do) with a Saints field goal kicker look to be diminishing. Lutz was an extreme bright spot for New Orleans, and it finally appears they have the stability at place kicker. Thanks John Harbaugh.