With a New Orleans Saints playoff birth and a divisional win already clinched, should the black and gold consider benching their stars to avoid injury?
The New Orleans Saints have already clinched a playoff birth. On top of that, the Saints have also secured a divisional victory, which guarantees a top-four seed. With the Philadelphia Eagles currently four games back from the Saints, they are pretty much guaranteed a top-three seed.
The Baltimore Ravens, the No. 1 seed in the AFC, have already announced last week that they will bench Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Mark Ingram, and more in their week 17 matchup. Teams do this to avoid injury to their star players in a meaningless game before the playoffs.
With all the injuries that the New Orleans Saints have already sustained, is it possible to bear any more injuries? Especially injuries to players like Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook. Injuries to those players would mean a quick exit in the playoffs regardless of the seed.
This is a tough situation because the New Orleans Saints are still playing for a first-round bye and need the win to even have the chance at securing the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoffs. However, they would also need the Packers or the 49ers to lose in week 17 as well.
They are already guaranteed the No. 3 seed and the Carolina Panthers are currently 5-10 sitting at the bottom of the NFC South division. They will not put up much of a fight and might even decide to bench McCaffrey as well.
My first instinct would be to say, “No! Play our stars, we need a first-round bye and home-field advantage!” But, when it comes down to it, it is not just a Saints’ win that would secure that seed, we would need one of the other two teams to lose.
My fear would be that we would play our stars, one of them gets injured — forbid it is a player like Michael Thomas who runs our whole receiving core — and then both of the other two teams get wins leaving us with the No. 3 seed still.
I would say that because we have no chance of dropping below a No. 3 seed, there are so many variables to rise to the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and the Carolina Panthers already being a depleted and broken team — I would argue it is better to sit Brees, Thomas, Cook, and Kamara.
On top of that, we have already seen what Latavius Murray and Teddy Bridgewater can do when called upon to step in. If I was Sean Payton, I am protecting my assets heading into a playoff where the New Orleans Saints have a real shot at winning the Super Bowl.