Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. ― Saints coach Sean Payton wouldn't commit to playing any of his key players on Sunday in New Orleans' regular season finale against Carolina.

Then again, he also wouldn't commit to not playing any of his key players.

There are too many days between now and the game and too many other decisions to make.

'I'm not going to get into any of it,' Payton said. 'I appreciate the question. But rather than tell you one thing (and) then do the other like I mentioned last night, I'd just rather wait. There's a few things.

'My instincts, no different than a year ago, are this is an important game for us and yet, we'll take all those things into consideration.'

The situation is eerily reminiscent of the 2010 finale, when the Saints needed a win combined with an Atlanta loss to slip into a better seed.

The Falcons were playing the lowly Panthers, a win all but assured.

In that last game, though, the Saints lost tight end Jimmy Graham, running back Chris Ivory and safety Malcolm Jenkins for the first-round playoff game, a loss to Seattle.

This time the Saints will host the Panthers while San Francisco, which owns the tie-breaker for the No. 2 seed, plays at St. Louis, a 2-13 team on a six-game losing streak.

Still, prior experience, at least in the sense of answering questions, won't affect Payton's decision.

What will affect the decision will be, according to Payton, what's best for the team.

'How do we put ourselves in the best position to play well and put ourselves in an opportunity to win a championship that's not always what is popular,' Payton said. 'Two years ago in 2009, a lot of people in this room criticized us for resting players at Carolina. It was what we needed to do as a team.

'You make decisions. They are not always right. You try to make them with the right things to help your team.'

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