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Sean Payton Says Saints Won't Rest Starters with NFC Playoff Seeding on the Line

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 25, 2019

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches game action during the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.  New Orleans defeats Tennessee 38-28. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints won't rest on their laurels in Week 17.

When asked if his team might rest its starters for the regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, head coach Sean Payton responded adamantly in the negative.

"No, no, no, no, no," Payton told reporters Wednesday. "Absolutely no. We're still playing for the 1, 2 or 3 seed."

The 12-3 Saints will enter Sunday at No. 3 in the NFC but aren't locked into that seed by any means. New Orleans can propel to the No. 1 seed if the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers, the projected top seed, lose at Seattle and the 12-3 Green Bay Packersprojected No. 2, lose to Detroit

The second seed is available to the Saints should either the Niners or Packers lose.

"I don't think it's a long shot what we need this week," Payton added, referring to what the Saints need in order to lock up a first-round bye.

New Orleans clinched a playoff berth on Thanksgiving by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 26-18 to win the NFC South:

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Saints clinch NFC South for third-straight season with 26-18 win over Falcons on Thanksgiving https://t.co/hFNK0RuY2e

The Saints aren't strangers to the postseason, having made it three straight years. However, this year they dealt with All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees missing six games through September and October with a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery.

Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seamlessly led the team to a 5-0 mark as a starter in Brees' absence, and All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas has been one of the most consistent offensive producers in the league:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

.@Cantguardmike is having one of the greatest receiving seasons of all time. ▫️No. 1 in rec. yards ▫️No. 1 in 1st downs ▫️No. 1 in targets ▫️No. 1 in catch % (among WR) ▫️No. 2 in rec. TDs ▫️Nine games with 10+ catches ▫️Broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season catch record https://t.co/lqPGIE571H

Regardless of which seed the Saints land, they have revenge at the forefront of their minds. Payton's squad was controversially ousted in the NFC Championship Game last season after Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was not called for a blatant defensive pass interference late in the fourth quarter.

Prior to that, New Orleans lost 29-24 to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 divisional round on the "Minneapolis Miracle" as time ran out.

The Saints play in Carolina at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.