New Orleans Saints  


Saints coach Payton sees value in playing starters in finale

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With 15 games and 12 wins in the books, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton isn't about to make any changes entering the regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

Not with the momentum of seven consecutive wins pushing the Saints into the playoffs, and not with their postseason position not quite settled.

"Our approach is going to be much like it has been," Payton said Wednesday. "We're going to play all of our guys. There's still seeding at stake."

The Saints can clinch the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win over the Panthers and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers. If the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams, or both the 49ers and Saints lose, New Orleans would be the No. 3 seed and host a first-round game.

The Saints haven't lost since Oct. 30, and Payton isn't about to let off the gas pedal.

"I think we're getting better as a team week to week right now," Payton said. "There's value in that. That progress might be something we need going into this postseason."

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Presumably that also means Drew Brees will at least start the game against the Panthers, one week after Payton allowed the quarterback to chase down Dan Marino's NFL single-season passing record against the Atlanta Falcons. Payton stood by that decision Tuesday, and keeping Brees on the field against the Panthers should allow him to stay ahead of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who trails by 190 yards.

Payton insists he won't be scoreboard watching anywhere else.

"We're going into it full speed ahead," he said. "I don't plan on paying attention to the other game going on."



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