Dat’s Davis: To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive The Saints Cannot Afford To Lose This Week Against The Dolphins
The New Orleans Saints, after their shocking 9-0 shutout victory over Tampa Bay, are now on a two-game win streak thus keeping themselves in the NFC Playoff race. They prepare for a Monday Night Football Game vs the Miami Dolphins at home in Caesar’s Superdome. This week could be very telling for the NFC as a whole, especially for the Saints, so I decided to take a deeper look at this week’s games that could impact the Saints’ playoff contentions.
Starting with San Francisco 49ers vs. Tennessee Titans. A 49ers loss drops them down to an 8-7 record, which not only opens up the 7th seed but also potentially the 6th seed as we head down the final stretch. Titans are expecting to get back WR A.J Brown this week, who should help considerably against a 49ers pass defense that ranks at bottom of the league in passer rating (26th) and completion percentage (28th). RB Jeff Wilson will have his hands full against the Titans, as they are one of the best run defenses in the league this year. Titans have only given up 3.9 YPC (t3rd), 86.9 YPG after fifteen weeks. The biggest x-factor will be whether QB Ryan Tannehill shows up on Sunday.
Next, we have the Minnesota Vikings vs Los Angeles Rams. QB Kirk Cousins is coming off his worst performance of the season, and perhaps even of his entire career with only 87 passing yards, one INT, a passer rating of 69.3. It doesn’t get any easier for Cousins either, as he now prepares to face a stingy Rams secondary spearheaded by CB Jalen Ramsey. If they don’t get WR Adam Thielen back this week, look for Justin Jefferson to struggle in this one. The Rams held Russell Wilson to only 156 yards, one INT, only five yards per attempt. Giving him the first official losing season of his career. A loss would drop Minnesota to 7-8, knocking them out of the 7th seed spot and certainly will eliminate them from playoff contention.
The biggest threat to the Saints playoff hopes is the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the tiebreaker after they dominated the Saints at Lincoln Financial Field earlier in the season. The Eagles host the New York Giants this week, a team that claims to be starting QB Jake Fromm. The Giants played spoiler to the Eagles last time they faced, giving QB Jalen Hurts his worst performance of the season, forcing three INTs, limiting to him only 129 yards, and a passer rating of 17.5. If they can get above average QB play from Jake Fromm, or even from Mike Glennon if the NY Giants chose to play him, it will be quite possible they sweep the Eagles thus knocking them down to a 7-8 record.
A 10-7 record gives the Saints the best chance to get into the playoffs, and their remaining schedule sets up nicely for them if they can find a way to get past Miami. The Saints face Carolina & Atlanta in their last stretch of games. Carolina is currently struggling offensively without RB Christian McCaffery in the lineup, and Saints are due for a revenge game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints will not be out of contention for the playoffs if they end their regular season play with a 9-8; however, several things would need to fall in their favor in order to do so.
Minnesota Vikings have the Los Angeles Rams & Green Bay Packers in their last stretch of regular-season games. With the Rams still in the thick of things to win the NFC West, and the Packers looking to maintain the #1 seed, Vikings could finish the year 8-9. The Philadelphia Eagles need to lose two of their last three games to also finish with an 8-9 record, which seems unlikely given the state of the Washington Football Team and the New York Giants’ gameplay this season. Not to mention the uncertainty of the outcome of their game against the Dallas Cowboys since it is a huge rivalry game to end regular season play. In addition, we’ve seen playoff teams rest their starters the week before postseason play numerous times throughout history.
The Saints placed TE Adam Trautman on the COVID-19 on Wednesday, making his status for Monday along with TE Juwan Johnson questionable. Also, they placed Garrett Griffin on Injured Reserve last week, making practice squad TE Ethan Wolf the only available option for the moment. Practice begins today for New Orleans, so we’ll see who is poised to return or not during these last remaining weeks.