NEW ORLEANS — We are about to experience two New Orleans Saints games at once. As fans, we will be watching the Saints play the Atlanta Falcons AND the San Francisco 49ers. For Saints fans, it's not really the Los Angeles Rams playing the 49ers, it's the Saints because the game in LA matters as much as the game in Atlanta. Saints and Rams both win = Saints playoffs. Oh, and both are going on at the same time. One Saints game a week is sometimes too much, now we have 2. Buckle up kids, starting Sunday at 3:25 p.m. it's going to get CRAZY.
Welcome to the biggest New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons regular-season game in history as far as the Saints are concerned. You don't get any bigger than the possibility of clinching a playoff berth in the Atlanta Falcons' home stadium on the final Sunday of the NFL season.
The Steve Gleason Game where the Saints returned to the Superdome after Katrina was more emotional but the stakes weren't nearly as high as Sunday will be. This Saints game has the potential to be one of the great regular-season moments ever and one of the worst.
Can you imagine the high of seeing Sean Payton and Taysom Hill hugging as THIS Saints team clinches a playoff spot while Falcons fans, all 9 of them, watch from the stands? It'd make the 2021 season a success, no asterisk, no buts, no nothing. Success. A Saints loss combined with a Los Angeles win would mean Falcons fans get the satisfaction of knowing their team kept the Saints from making a fifth straight postseason trip. Agony. Those are the stakes.
This is only the third time this century the Saints have been in the position of needing to win their season finale to clinch a playoff spot.
In 2002 all they needed to do was beat the Carolina Panthers at home, instead, they lost 10-6 while only generating 244 yards of offense because quarterback Aaron Brooks' shoulder was wrecked and the Saints insisted on playing him anyway. As brutal as any non-playoff Saints loss I've ever witnessed in person.
In 2004 the Saints looked deader than Elvis Presley at 4-8 but rallied to win their next 3, and the season finale against the Carolina Panthers looked like the winner gets a playoff spot game, unless craziness in a bunch of other games happened.
The Saints held up their end, winning 21-18 as Deuce McAllister ran for 140 yards, unfortunately for the Saints, the other games on the final Sunday went all wrong and they were left out of the postseason. The Jets Doug Brien missed a field goal against the Rams that would have sent the Saints to the playoffs and I'm still not over it.
I sometimes wonder if the 2004 Saints made the playoffs and won a postseason game do the Saints keep Jim Haslett and Aaron Brooks then the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era never happens? I still blame Herm Edwards, but maybe I should thank him?
So this is unfamiliar territory for the Saints under Sean Payton. Usually their spot has been locked in and all that has been on the line is seeding.
If you are unfamiliar with the experience we are about to have let me tell you it will be wild.
Being completely emotionally invested in 2 Saints games at the same time involving the team we hate the most (Falcons) and 2 teams we hate ALMOST as much (49ers and Rams) on the final Sunday of 2021 really is the perfect ending for this ridiculous Saints season.
I suggest having good bourbon, good food, and a good sense of humor Sunday. We'll need all 3. I can not wait.
Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: Dark Horse – Katy Perry Maybe the Saints don't get in the playoffs because they crash and burn in Atlanta, but maybe they get in and magic happens? We want to believe in magic. We want to believe in our Saints. We dare to dream the 2021 Saints are the perfect storm. The dream lives at least one more Sunday.
The Games Last Week: 2-3 Season: 39-36
New Orleans (-4.5) at Atlanta: The 2021 Falcons win nearly all their close games and get boat raced in the others. They have lost 7 games by at least 2 touchdowns and won 7 by a touchdown or less.
Matt Ryan absolutely torched the Saints defense in their first meeting but he might be without star rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and the Saints pass rush wasn't in Death Star mode then either. The defense will play well and shut down the Falcons offense, as Cam Jordan will continue his sack tour against the quarterback he's put on the ground more than any other.
The question Sunday is can the Saints offense get their rushing game cranked up against a Falcons defense that's given up the 26th most rushing yards in the NFL? The Saints' offensive line is in shambles but they ran for 203 yards against a Jets rush defense that is almost as bad as the Falcons. So I'm telling you there's a chance.
The way the 2021 Saints season has gone, the ending has to be epic. It can't just be some ordinary win or climax. It'll either be a horrible or glorious memory. Let's start off 2022 thinking positively. The Atlanta Falcons are about to experience the most important TED Talk of their entire life on how to keep a 28-3 lead. It's gonna be a party in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Rams (-5.5) vs San Francisco: This game is a must-win for the Rams. Win and they are the #2 seed in the NFC and get 2 home playoff games. Lose, and they could be the #5 seed and be headed to Dallas to play the Cowboys. There is no way on God's green earth Matthew Stafford is winning 3 road playoff games. No way. If the Rams want to play in the Super Bowl in their new shiny stadium they have to beat the 49ers. Cooper Kupp will shatter Michael Thomas' NFL reception record. Small price to pay for a Saints playoff spot. Our attention will quickly turn to this close barn burner of a game. Rams win...but will take us on one hell of a ride.
Tampa Bay (-8) vs Carolina: I wish the seeding could work out the Saints get a third crack at Tom Brady. Too bad it's not possible. I wonder who will be the Panthers coach in 2022?
Indianapolis (-15.5) at Jacksonville: The Jags just gave up 50. This line couldn't be high enough to even consider Jacksonville.
Cincinnati (-2.5) at Cleveland: The Bengals probably won't play Joe Burrow because they've clinched the division but I just want to say how much fun the Bengals are to watch. My AFC team is finally good!