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When the New Orleans Saints lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the season to an ACL injury on Halloween, backup Trevor Siemian came in and finished the upset of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The very next week, reality set in, and Saints head coach Sean Payton now needs to figure out a viable plan to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. His best bet might be following the advice of sports media legend Jim Rome.  

The New Orleans Saints struggled in their first full game without Jameis Winston

A week after his backup QB, Trevor Siemian, pulled off one of the biggest and most surprising upsets of the 2021 NFL season by beating the Bucs, Saints coach Sean Payton got his team ready to play their struggling NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

The only problem is that the team didn’t come out ready to play.

The then-3-4 Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead, which Matt Ryan and company grew to a 24-6 lead by early in the fourth quarter.

The Saints D struggled to contain Atlanta’s 2021 breakout star, Cordarrelle Patterson, who had six catches for 126 yards in the game. Ryan played well throughout as well, going 23-of-30 for 343 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

In the first half, the Saints had just four possessions. They ran only 25 plays and went punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt.  

In the fourth quarter, Siemian did lead the Saints on a furious comeback. The team scored three TDs in the last 11 minutes of the game. It was too little, too late, though. Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo kicked the game-winner as time expired to give Atlanta a 27-25 win.

Jim Rome says the answer is Philip Rivers 

Even before the Saints’ loss to the Falcons, which tightened the NFC South race for second, the always-opinionated Jim Rome took to the CBS airwaves to give Saints coach Sean Payton some advice on what to do at the QB spot during the NFL Today pregame show.

In an open rant directed at Payton, Rome said that the coach could probably get his team to the playoffs with either journeyman Trevor Siemian or Swiss army knife Taysom Hill. However, Rome had a third idea that he said could take the Saints even further:

If you’re Sean Payton, who do you go with at QB1 after losing Jameis Winston? Taysom or Trevor? The answer is easy: Phil. … Philip Rivers. He led the Colts to the playoffs last season. He’s exactly what they need, someone who can manage the game and get it to Alvin Kamara in open space. No brainer. I know they’re starting Trevor Siemian this week, but he’s Trevor Siemian. And this is a really tough year not to have a great quarterback in the NFC. … Sure, Payton can coach up either Hill or Siemian and get them to the postseason. But if you want to do damage once you get there, Rivers is the guy, dadgummit.

Jim Rome on Sean Payton and Philip Rivers

Rome also noted that the NFC currently features teams with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, and Kyler Murray playing QB.

Philip Rivers — even at 39 and even after a year coaching high school football in Alabama — fits into this group of names better than Siemian or Hill does. If there is anything left in old No. 17’s tank, it is worth taking a look if you are Sean Payton.   

Sean Payton and the Saints need to figure out their QB situation soon 

(L-R) Inductee Jim Rome attends the Radio Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Induction Ceremony at Gotham Hall on November 08, 2019 in New York City; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on from the sideline during the football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints at Caesar's Superdome on October 31, 2021 in New Orleans, LA.
(L-R) Jim Rome, Sean Payton | Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Radio Hall of Fame; Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

The Week 9 loss to the Falcons marked the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season.

At 5-3, Sean Payton’s squad is very much in the thick of the NFC wild-card hunt. However, unlike the truly wide-open AFC, there are only really two NFC playoff spots still available.

The Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Buccaneers all have comfortable division leads and will make the playoffs easily. The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams will duke it out for the NFC West, but the loser will be guaranteed the first NFC wild-card spot.

That leaves two playoff slots available for the rest of the conference. The Saints are currently in the No. 6 seed, but several teams could currently take that bid if they slip.

Ruling out teams with six losses or more, New Orleans still has to hold off the Falcons (4-4), Carolina Panthers (4-5), Minnesota Viking (3-5), San Francisco 49ers (3-5), and Seattle Seahawks (3-5).

Like Jim Rome said, Payton can likely drag one of his current QBs over the regular-season finish line. The problem becomes when the team faces one of those murderers’ row of QBs on the division-winning teams.

To paraphrase former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino, Drew Brees isn’t walking through that door in 2021, so Payton better figure out a plan B. If he can get Rivers in, at least to kick the tires, it could make the difference between being first-round fodder and a real contender.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference


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