There’s no way around it, the New Orleans Saints are in a bit of a tough spot moving into the final stretch of the 2021 season. After going on a 5-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Saints found themselves momentarily bouncing back against both the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of that came to a screeching halt as the COVID-19/injury bug reared its ugly head as the Saints headed into battle against the Miami Dolphins.
Unfortunately, a COVID-19 stricken Saints team who would enter the game down 20 plus starters, wouldn’t have the fire power necessary to outlast Miami. The game would end at 20-3, dropping the Saints to 7-8 overall on the season. As ugly as that may appear, all hope is not lost for the moment. If the Saints want to have a chance at a post season appearance, a few things need to happen. That all starts Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
If the Saints win:
For New Orleans to sneak into the playoffs, they’ll need to at bare minimum win their final two games and this starts with the Panthers. Moving to 8-8 would get the team back to .500 and keep playoff hopes alive. Depending on what happens elsewhere around the league, this could bode well for the Saints moving into next week’s rematch against the Falcons.
The good news for the Saints is that most of the players that were MIA in Monday’s loss to Miami will be returning. If the Saints expect to end this season on a high note, they’ll need to take care of business against a battered Carolina team. Winning this game will return a level of confidence to this team that’s been lacking as of late. After the emotional high of defeating Tampa Bay, injuries and COVID-19 derailed most of the team’s momentum. Look for the Saints to reclaim that momentum on Sunday.
If the Saints lose:
If New Orleans somehow manages to drop this game against Carolina, then post season plans can officially be cancelled. The Saints cannot afford to drop the ball here or next week in Atlanta. A loss here would drop New Orleans to 7-9 and pretty much put a bow on this season. While it wouldn’t officially be over, the Saints would need a lot of help from around the league and I’m not sure that Lady Luck is a big enough Saints fan to let be on their side.
A loss here would also deflate any momentum this team could even hope to muster up before a rematch with the Atlanta Falcons next week. Simply put, the playoffs for New Orleans starts Sunday.
If the Saints play good football and keep their noses clean on Sunday, then they should be able to avenge the early season loss to the Panthers and stay on track. With the return of Taysom Hill, Deonte Harris, and Demario Davis to name a few... the Saints can reclaim the momentum they need moving into the final week of the season.
Prediction: 24-17 Saints
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