The New Orleans Saints have Super Bowl aspirations once again. Sitting at 11-4, they have the offensive and defensive firepower to come out of the NFC. They seemed to be peaking at the right time, especially after their dominant Christmas day game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Unfortunately for the New Orleans Saints, they have suffered an enormous blow that can impact their ability to clinch the one-seed in the NFC. Even worse than that, this news can affect their chances in the playoff, should they have to play a wild card game.
The Saints’ lose their entire running back room because of COVID-19
It was reported by ESPN that Saints running back Alvin Kamara tested positive for the coronavirus. His positive test result means that he will miss New Orleans’ season finale against the Carolina Panthers. Backup running backs Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington were going to have to pick up the slack in Kamara’s absence. They won’t be playing now either.
Murray, Washington, fullback Michael Burton, and running backs coach Joel Thomas are all ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Panthers per ESPN. They have been deemed close contacts to Kamara, and NFL protocols prevent them from playing in such situations. The back mentioned did not test positive, which is a good sign. It’s tough enough to replace Kamara, but now it is even more difficult to replace an entire position group.
With no available running backs on their roster, the Saints will move Ty Montgomery to running back. He is a versatile player, having experience playing running back throughout his NFL career. New Orleans has also brought up Tony Jones Jr. from the practice squad to assist. Taysom Hill will also see some work in the running game, given the Saints’ unique situation.
The running back room going down due to COVID-19 complications makes the Saints game against Carolina a tough challenge. They will be without many other key players, making it a real possibility for them to drop their last game of the season.
New Orleans Saints are banged up ending the season
Injuries have impacted the Saints a great deal this season. They have managed to weather the storm, but more injuries are piling up. Heading into an important Week 17 game, New Orleans will be without many of their stars, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Drew Brees will be without some of the Saints’ top receivers heading into their final game.
Star wide receiver Michael Thomas is out because of an ankle injury. Thomas suffered this injury in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The ankle injury has bothered Thomas most of the season, along with other ailments. Even though he is currently on injured reserve, Thomas is expected to be ready for the postseason. Tre’Quan Smith is out due to an ankle injury, and Deonte Harris won’t play because of a neck injury.
The Saints’ offense isn’t close to full strength, putting much pressure on Drew Brees. Brees is still trying to gain his rhythm back before the playoffs start. This game against the Panthers will be his third one since he returned from breaking 11 ribs and a punctured lung. He hasn’t played great since he came back, and it will be even more challenging with many of his weapons out.
This is the worst time for the injury (or COVID-19) bug to bite the Saints. Despite the Panthers’ record, they have played competitive football their past five games. With the number of people out and a formidable opponent, the Saints could miss out on the one-seed, which could drastically impact their Super Bowl chances.
The Saints need to obtain the one-seed
Obtaining the top seed in the NFC is of extreme importance to the New Orleans Saints. Because of the new playoff format, only the one-seed gets a bye week in the playoffs. The Saints need that bye week more than anyone in their conference. The biggest reason they need it is because of Alvin Kamara’s positive coronavirus test.
Since Kamara tested positive on Friday, he would need to wait 10 days and stay asymptomatic before he can play again per ESPN. That means he could miss the Saints’ Wild Card playoff game, should they have one. Not having Kamara on the field would be detrimental to the Saints, as he has been their best player all season.
The Saints can get the one-seed and the bye with a win against the Panthers and some help. New Orleans needs the Chicago Bears to defeat the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks to beat the San Francisco 49ers to obtain the one-seed. A bye week would allow Kamara an extra week to get off the COVID list. It also gives Brees, Thomas, and all the other injured Saints an added week of rest.
The running backs will look totally different for the New Orleans Saints this week. COVID-19 has wiped out their entire running back room in a critical game. Montgomery, Jones Jr., and Hill will have to shoulder the Saints’ running load in Week 17, potentially carrying them to a postseason bye.