Panthers at Saints (Source: nbc33tv.com)

New Orleans Saints to play starters against Panthers, but for how long?

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It’s been another great season for the New Orleans Saints as they have won seven straight games which has helped them earn their third consecutive post season berth and second NFC South title in the last three years — oh,  and then there is the play of Drew Brees.

On Monday Night Football Brees became the NFL’s new passing leader, surpassing Dan Marino’s long standing single season passing yardage record of 5,084 yards set in 1984.

Through fifteen games Brees has 5,087 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and has an NFL best completion percentage of 71 percent — perhaps a new league record once the last game is played this year.

The record came during the Saints final drive in the final four minutes against the Falcons. Unfortunately the Saints decision to go for the touchdown, and get Brees the record, when they clearly had the game won, has drawn the ire of many close to the sport.

New Orleans though is unfazed by the remarks that they where running up the score. The very plain truth is that Drew Brees has played his heart out this season, and thus is more than deserving of this prestigious record.

But whether or not the Saints would play their starters this week became a topic of interest considering they have locked up their division and are already headed into the playoffs.

It’s possible that New Orleans could take over the NFC’s second seed and earn the coveted first round bye, but that would require a little help from the San Francisco 49ers who would have to lose to the St. Louis Rams.

However the chances that the 49ers lose are slim when you consider that they already beat the Rams just a few weeks back. St. Louis will also likely be without the services of starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

Neither the Saints or 49ers will know much about what the other is doing as both teams are slated for the same kick-off times, but you can bet the coaches will have one eye on the scoreboard as their respective games play out.

I can’t help but remember last season when the Saints played their starters against the Buccaneers in week seventeen with little on the line, and starters began to drop like flies.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, running back Chris Ivory, and free safety Malcolm Jenkins were all injured in the game, and both Ivory as well as Jenkins ended up missing the following week — a wild-card playoff loss against the Seattle Seahawks.

Head coach Sean Payton confirmed in his press conference today that he does intend to play his starters, including Drew Brees, this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

What he didn’t clarify is just how long he intends to keep his starters in the game, but that will likely be dictated by how the 49ers – Rams game unfolds further north.

I doubt Payton wants to risk injury and a repeat of last season playoff debacle, but the chance at earning a bye week is just too great to ignore.

Go Rams.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Drew Brees New Orleans Saints NFL

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