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Saints plan to play starters in final preseason tilt

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While most teams sit their starters for the final preseason game, the New Orleans Saints will roll with their top players for a spell Thursday night versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday that he plans to play his starters for about a quarter of action in the preseason finale.

It's customary that key players sit to avoid injury in the fourth preseason game, leaving playing time mostly to borderline roster dwellers battling for the final few spots or practice squad gigs.

The Times-Picayune's Josh Katzenstein points out that the last time quarterback Drew Brees started a preseason finale was 2006 -- a decade ago, in his first year with the Saints.

If Payton doesn't reverse course and decides it's not worth risking Brees in another meaningless game, it will display how much the coach believes his team needs to concoct momentum heading into the regular season after some mediocre preseason outings.

Not much will be gleaned from watching Saints starters play against Baltimore backups (assuming John Harbaugh sticks with the traditional route) other than to get some positivity heading into games that count.

Several other teams will also play key players in the preseason finale, including Hue Jackson's Cleveland Browns. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said earlier this week the plan was for Marcus Mariota to play Thursday, but didn't rule out changing his mind.

Getting some additional snaps in the final tuneup can be beneficial, especially for young players. But if a key cog goes down, expect to hear a loud uproar on Friday.

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