5 Players Who Mean the Most to a New Orleans Saints Playoff Run
Playoff Pressure Should Fall on These Players
The New Orleans Saints, who were dubbed to run away with the NFC South title in the early weeks of the season, are now battling hard to fend off the upstart Carolina Panthers from taking their glory.
A 27-16 loss on the road to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday put a huge damper on the Saints’ plans at claiming a second division championship in three seasons. New Orleans was sloppy with the football against St. Louis, turning it over three times without taking the ball away once. They were also out gained on the ground 144 to 61 in the game. Those are just two areas where New Orleans needs to see great improvement to continue on a path to the playoffs.
Who are the players that need to elevate their game in order to help their team make the postseason? Many of the following players performed very poorly in New Orleans’ loss to St. Louis. The Saints simply had no business losing to the now 6-8 Rams. Some of the Saints’ best players simply did not play up to their expectations.
This Sunday, New Orleans will need a complete performance from every one of its players as the team travels to Charlotta, NC to take on the Carolina Panthers. Both teams are 10-4, and this game will decide who takes over the top spot in the NFC South heading into Week 16.
A whole awful lot is on the line this Sunday. The Saints will need to shake their upset loss to the Rams and play like the team they know how to be. Here are five players that mean most to the New Orleans Saints' playoff run.
5. Cameron Jordan, DE
Defensive end Cameron Jordan is the heart and soul of the New Orleans defense. He had virtually no impact, however, in the Saints’ 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. New Orleans failed to get to Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens a single time. Jordan will have to return to playing relentless football this coming Sunday against the division rival Carolina Panthers. Containing Cam Newton will be crucial for the Saints in remaining atop the NFC South.
4. Pierre Thomas, RB
The New Orleans passing game can’t win every game for the Saints. They undoubtedly have a pass-first offense and running back Darren Sproles benefits from that with frequent screen plays, but Pierre Thomas and the run game has to get going heading into the final weeks of the season. Thomas leads the Saints' run crew, which ranks 26th in the NFL in yards per game, but will need to break out and give Brees other options aside from telegraphed passing plays. The Rams were able to contain Brees on Sunday, and unless Thomas can find a way to make an impact the Carolina Panthers' defense could tear the Saints apart come this weekend.
3. Drew Brees, QB
Drew Brees will always be the Saints' most important player, but it is almost given that he will always show up with his best game. He trails only Peyton Manning on both the NFL’s passing yards and touchdowns lists. Everyone knows Brees will play his best football every Sunday, but should he slip at all the Saints' chances at winnings are drastically decreased. He’ll need to continue to play consistent and elite football in order for his team to continue to contend in the NFC South.
2. Charles Brown, OT
A quarterback is only as good as his offensive line. Charles Brown leads the New Orleans offensive line and will need to prevent Brees from being sacked the rest of the season. Brown was benched in the third quarter of the Saints’ upset to the Rams on Sunday after being dominated by St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn, who sacked Brees twice. A repeat of Brown’s performance Sunday will be unacceptable during the rest of the season.
1. Jimmy Graham, TE
Jimmy Graham has been on a bit of a slump lately. Just twice over his last eight games did Graham total more than 100 yards receiving — he hasn’t accomplished the feat since Nov. 21 against the Atlanta Falcons. Graham has been the Saints’ most dynamic player all season long, and they can’t afford for Graham to play at such a less-than-elite level. Graham is the best tight end in the NFL, leading all players at that position with 1,071 receiving yards. He also leads all players with 14 receiving touchdowns. Graham caught just two passes for 25 yards Sunday against the Rams, and another game like that with be extremely detrimental to the Saints’ playoff chances.