Saints approaching week 18 with playoff mindset

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates his sack of Carolina Panthers...
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates his sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold as Darnold walks to the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. The Saints won 18-10. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)(Derick Hingle | AP)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:24 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WLOX) - The NFC playoff race is entirely locked up except for the final wild card spot. San Francisco has one game up on New Orleans with one final week to go. All the Saints have to do is win, and watch San Francisco fall to the Rams. The 49ers crushed LA earlier in the season, and the Saints fell to the Falcons back in November - so history is not on New Orleans’ side.

But with some players coming back from injury and the COVID list, New Orleans - at least compared to a couple weeks prior - is getting healthier over the closing days of the regular season. Its defense is playing out of its mind, allowing fewer than 10 points per game over its last four games - the best four-game defensive stretch of the season by a landslide. If the Saints are to come out of Sunday with a playoff spot clinched, it’ll be their first wild card ticket punched since 2013 - another scenario that came down to the final week. That was a while ago, but most of this team has playoff experience. And even though week 17 wasn’t technically a postseason game, it felt like one in the Saints’ locker room.

“It is unique that it’s the regular season. But, we’ve been in these games before,” quarterback Taysom Hill said. “Shoot, last week was a must-win, and we treated it like a playoff game. This week has more of a playoff feel for us. If we don’t win, we’re for sure going home. So, the mindset is the same.”

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