On the day Taysom Hill made his biggest play of the year for the New Orleans Saints by blocking a punt in the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the fact Sean Payton has been using Hill less and less on offense slipped under the radar.

Starting September 30 against the New York Giants, Taysom Hill played in at least 20 percent of the Saints offensive snaps in 5 out of 6 games, topping out at 34 percent against Minnesota on October 28. Since then, he’s played in 20 percent of the offensive snaps only 1 time (Cincinnati). The past month Hill’s snap count on offense by percentage is 18.6, 19.3, 13.5, 11.9.

Saints return to top of NFL power ratings

So why the decrease? As Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus explained in early November, Sean Payton wasn’t afraid to use Hill in high leverage situations on 3rd and 4th down and it was working.

Hill has been a cheat code for the Saints when they’ve needed it most.

Clearly the fun of Taysom Hill was a success and Sean Payton even let Hill throw a pass from shotgun formation against the Vikings. So why is Sean Payton curtailing our fun and depriving Eric Paulsen and me of our favorite Monday morning on-air conversation; the joys of the Taysom Hill Experience?

My theory is Sean Payton is saving all his finest Taysom Hill plays for the post season. Payton’s interview with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk gave clues to how he likes to hoard the Saints best goal line, short yardage and 2-point plays.

“How do we feel like, with our play inventory, at that point in the game? So, if I’m inside the 5-yard line, and I’ve got a section of two-point plays, and let’s say I love two of these. I love them. Certainly, if I love this play, I want to score six with it. So, if I love this play for two, I might wait until the second half.”

If Sean Payton is willing to save certain plays in games, why wouldn’t he be willing to save Taysom Hill plays and formations until the post season? Why waste a fantastic Hill fake punt or goal line play against Carolina? Sure the #1 Seed in the NFC is at stake, but the fantastic plays Payton has drawn up and not yet shown us could be better used in a bigger moment.

I like to think of Payton’s Hill plays as his finest wine, and you don’t just break the good a stuff for a random Friday night. No sir, you save that for holidays, to celebrate grandma winning the big score at church bingo, and when an NFC Championship hangs in the balance.

Taysom Hill might be quiet the rest of the regular season on offense but he’s too great a weapon to not reappear and it’ll probably just when the Saints need him most.

Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson – featuring Bruno Mars

Sure this song is like 4 years old which in 2018 terms make it ancient, but I try to not play children’s music for my kid because children’s music is awful and hey kid learn to appreciate Bruno Mars funking us up.

I dance to this song in my car a lot, because me kid wants it and the LSU fight song played on a loop, plus the Saints are 11-2 so dancing is in order as Teddy Bridgewater shows us on a weekly basis. Teddy looks so happy, like he knows something about his future we don’t. That man looks like he won the Powerball and ain’t told nobody yet. He’s living his best life and we should emulate Teddy B.

The Games

Last Week:3-2

Season: 38-27

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina: The Panthers of course are in the middle of having their season implode, but it’s more a case of bad luck then the Panthers being a bad team. 4 of Carolina’s 5 losses in their losing streak are by 1 score, including defeats by 1, 3, 7, and 6 points. With just a sprinkling of better fortune they’d be a 7- or 8-win team.

As it is, they are still on the outskirts of the playoff race.

The Panthers defense is 24th in points allowed (25.5), which seems like a bad sign considering the Saints usually light them up pretty good even when their defense is excellent.

The other issue for Carolina that’s more concerning is Cam Newton’s arm looks injured. The last 2 games Newton has not looked like himself. Cam completed 65 percent of his throws with 2 TDs and 5 interceptions in the Panthers last 2 losses.

There is a non-zero chance if the Saints embarrass the Panthers Monday night, the team’s new owner might decide to clean house and start over following the season.

If ever Carolina was going to empty everything, they’ve got to save their season, it’ll be Monday night, but It won’t be enough. I expect to be enjoying lots of camera shots of sad Cam and listening to Booger McFarland explaining why Cam’s so sad while riding that space age scooter up and down the sideline ESPN puts him in for games.

Saints 38-17

Indianapolis (-3) vs Dallas: The Cowboys are good but ask Carolina how living in the world of one score games works out? Regression is going to hit Jerry Jones hard.

Colts 24-20

Atlanta (-7.5) vs Arizona: The Saints are 11-2 and the Falcons are in a death spiral? 2018 is heaven on earth.

Falcons 31-17

Green Bay (+5.5) at Chicago: The Packers are still barely alive in the playoff race and I won’t believe the Bears can beat Aaron Rodgers until they actually do it.

Packers 20-16

Cleveland (+4) at Denver: If the Steelers and Ravens both lose and Browns win, the AFC North becomes a wild 3 team race. That’d be fun. I like fun, let’s root for fun.

Browns 27-23

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.