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Saints Week 16 Power Rankings: Saints rise in several rankings despite second straight loss

Taking a runaway train like the Chiefs down to the wire is enough to convince some people that the Saint aren’t dead yet

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s weird to feel decent after losing a game in which you give up 32 points, but that’s just kind of what playing against the Kansas City Chiefs does. The New Orleans Saints endured arguably the worst passing game of Drew Brees’s career to take the Chiefs down to the wire, before ultimately falling to 10-4 on the season and scratching and clawing for the No. 2 seed in a battle with the Seahawks.

The good news, of course, is that the No. 2 seed has never mattered less than it does this season. Ultimately the difference between No. 2 and No. 3 is playing a different 9-10 win team, although the bigger problem is that the Buccaneers are still coming up fast in the rear-view in the NFC South. The Saints’ tests against the Vikings and Panthers just got more important.

ESPN - #4 (+1)

Most underrated star: DE Trey Hendrickson

The fourth-year pro is tied with Aaron Donald for the NFL lead with 12.5 sacks this season — including two Sunday against Patrick Mahomes, along with five QB hits and a forced fumble. Hendrickson was a rotational backup for most of his first three seasons, and not even the Saints saw this breakout coming, as they tried very hard to sign Jadeveon Clowney the week before the season started. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder stepped up in a big way when projected starter Marcus Davenport missed the first four games because of injuries, and he hasn’t slowed down since. — Mike Triplett

USA Today - #4 (-1)

Saints: They’re staggering down the stretch, but New Orleans historians will recall a similar December 11 years ago that ended with a Lombardi Gras party.

CBS - #5 (+/-)

They’ve lost two straight games, which isn’t a good way to be playing down the stretch. Drew Brees didn’t look good for much of the Chiefs game, but he rallied late.

NFL - #4 (-1)

Drew Brees returned to the lineup, but he wasn’t really back. The veteran quarterback, who missed the previous four weeks with broken ribs and a collapsed lung, started 0-for-6 passing with an interception and looked like a diminished version of himself for most of Sunday’s 32-29 loss to the Chiefs. Brees did improve as the game went along, but not enough to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who rolled up over 400 yards offense in a ho-hum performance by their standards. How Brees progresses over the next three weeks will likely decide whether the Saints belong in the conversation of Super Bowl contenders. That road just got a lot tougher: Back-to-back losses likely take New Orleans out of the running for a first-round bye and the home-field advantage that comes with it.

Bleacher Report - #4 (-1)

It might seem odd to be worried about a 10-win New Orleans Saints team.

But after back-to-back losses all but ensured that New Orleans can’t obtain the NFC’s No. 1 seed, there’s room for concern with the Saints.

Admittedly, there are mitigating factors. Drew Brees played Sunday for the first time since he fractured 11 ribs a month ago. The Saints played the Chiefs without top wide receiver Michael Thomas, who landed on injured reserve with a nagging ankle injury.

Saints head coach Sean Payton said the team is playing the long game with their star wideout.

“The challenge is he’s got one of those nagging injuries where you want to see an upward curve with the recovery, but as long as he’s playing, it’s hard for that to happen,” Payton told reporters. ”So, I think we’re doing the smart thing with Mike.”

It may well be the wise course of action. But the Saints have already dropped to the No. 2 seed and sit in a virtual tie with the Seahawks for No. 3. Fortunately, New Orleans’ closing slate is softer than Seattle’s.

Yahoo - #4 (+1)

Maybe the fourth quarter was a sign that Drew Brees was knocking the rust off and will be fine. He played better late. But he also started Sunday’s game 7-of-24 passing, and given the injury he had and his age, there has to be concern that Brees won’t rebound the rest of the season.

Sports Illustrated - #4 (+1)

New Orleans went to the mat with the mighty Chiefs despite having a quarterback coming back from 11 cracked ribs, and playing without its best receiver (Michael Thomas) and, for most of the game, pass-rusher (Cam Jordan). If Drew Brees can get right for January, this is a team no one wants to face.Average Power Ranking Composite: #5 (-2)

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