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5 questions with Canal Street Chronicles

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We have a conversation between a writer whose team has nothing to gain and one whose team has nothing to lose.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

This is a weird week. The Panthers are on their third quarterback, due to injury, of the season. The Saints are likely to play three quarterbacks, due to shenaniganry, in the same game. The Panthers have nothing to lose and the Saints have nothing to win, with the sole exception of division pride.

To try to get a grasp on the Saints’ perceptions of this game, I spoke again with Chris Dunnells of Canal Street Chronicles. He gave us the inside scoop on the Saints motivations and roster management strategies heading into Sunday’s game.

Cat Scratch Reader: The Saints have already sewn up the number one seed in the NFC. What is their goal against the Panthers in a game whose outcome has zero effect on New Orleans’ season?

Canal Street Chronicles: The goal is first and foremost to get and stay healthy. The entire Saints offensive line is banged up. Ted Ginn Jr has only played one game back since being activated off IR late last week. Alvin Kamara has flown past his single season career high in touches. The Saints need to make sure this team is fresh and ready to go come the divisional round.

On the other hand, there are a few other personal motivators for the team. Drew Brees is likely to play the first series to eclipse 4,000 passing yards for the season. Expect him to target Michael Thomas early, as Thomas is inching closer to the Saints single season receiving record. Then expect a heavy dose of Mark Ingram as the Saints will try to let Ingram break Deuce McAllister’s Saints career rushing record.

CSR: Will Sean Payton actually sit his starters this week?

CSC: There’s a difference between being inactive, starting, and playing starter’s snaps. I’d expect a player like Terron Armstead, dealing with an injured pectoral muscle, to be inactive. Brees, for the reasons above, I’d expect to start. But I would be shocked if players like Brees, Michael Thomas, and others actually saw significant time.

CSR: Tedd Ginn, Jr is actually back now. What are your expectations for him through the playoffs?

CSC: What Ted Ginn provides to this team is not always shown on his stat sheet. With Ginn back out wide, opposing defenses now have to respect the Saints ability to attack deep down the field. That should help open up short and intermediate routes for player like Thomas and Kamara and limit opposing defenses’ ability to double team both Kamara and Thomas the whole game. I’d expect 4-5 catches for Ginn a game, for 50-80 yards, but again, he’s more to the Saints than just his numbers.

CSR: Who is the first quarterback off the bench for Drew Brees? It clearly should be Teddy Bridgewater, but Payton seems to have an unnatural affection for Taysom Hill.

CSC: Taysom Hill is practically an offensive starter at this point. He’s not just a quarterback in Sean Payton’s offense - he’s much more than that. When Brees isn’t behind the helm, expect Teddy Bridgewater to play in his place. Taysom will take his usual snaps across the formation, and it shouldn’t have any impact on Teddy.

CSR: Let us down easy. How deep of a run do you realistically expect the Saints to make into the playoffs? I want to know when it will be safe to turn my TV back on in January.

CSC: To me, it all depends on the match ups. I might regret saying this later, but I like the Saints chances at home against teams like the Bears (that offense doesn’t scare me a bit, and home field advantage should help alleviate some concerns with that defense) or the Cowboys (See Bears, Chicago). Then a team like the Seahawks actually keeps me up at night at this point. The Saints have already shown an ability to beat the Rams at home, and without Cooper Kupp this time, they’re even less formidable on offense. Kirk Cousin and the Vikings can be hit or miss, but I like our defense’s chances against that offensive line. If the Saints can get favorable match ups as a benefit of the #1 seed, you might need to wait until after the first week in February before you turn your TV back on.