NFL GAME PREVIEW

Celebrating SB XLIV, Saints welcome Colts on MNF

Field Level Media

December 15, 2019 at 1:21 pm.

The New Orleans Saints will honor their only Super Bowl team on Monday Night Football in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

It is the 10th anniversary of the Saints’ 31-17 victory over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV, and the Colts are in town.

This Saints team (10-3) has a chance to go to another Super Bowl, having already clinched the NFC South title. The Colts (6-7), on the other hand, are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race after losing five of their last six games.

New Orleans can still get the No. 1 seed, but it will need help. San Francisco is 11-2 and just beat the Saints last week. But Seattle is only a game back in the NFC West at 10-3 with a game left against the 49ers, and the Saints beat the Seahawks this season. The North champion — Green Bay (10-3) or Minnesota (9-4) — is still in the mix. The NFC East champion is locked into the fourth seed.

“It’s real simple — one, two, or three,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “That’s what we’re playing for. We’re going to be in one of those three spots, and the focus has to be on improving and playing the Colts.”

Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes against the 49ers in a crushing 48-46 loss Sunday, and his last one gave the Saints the lead with 53 seconds remaining. But Jimmy Garoppolo kept bringing San Francisco back, and he drove his team 63 yards to Robbie Gould’s 30-yard winning field goal as time expired.

Brees needs three touchdown passes to break former Colt Peyton Manning’s career record of 539, though the Patriots’ Tom Brady is only one behind Brees, who is one of two Saints remaining from the Super Bowl team. The other is punter Thomas Morstead.

The Colts know they will be eliminated from the playoff race if they lose to the Saints — or either of their other two remaining opponents for that matter. They have to win out and hope that Tennessee and/or Houston lose at least two more games each.

Most observers wrote off Indianapolis’ playoff chances after star quarterback Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired during the preseason, but Jacoby Brissett stepped in and helped the Colts start the season 5-2.

Offensive shortcomings were a problem in losses to Tennessee, Houston and Miami, but special-teams woes were key in several losses. Then the mostly solid defense fell apart in a 38-35 loss at Tampa Bay last week.

“It’s something different every week,” Colts coach Frank Reich said.

The Colts are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards, and Marlon Mack needs 100 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. That will be a challenge against a New Orleans defense that has not allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards in the last 39 games, the longest such streak currently active in the NFL.

The Saints will try to extend that streak in the absence of two key defensive linemen — tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) and end Marcus Davenport (foot) — who both went on injured reserve this week because of injuries suffered against San Francisco.

“Both of those guys were really good players,” Reich said, “but they’re rotating guys who substitute that are good players. I’m sure they feel like us and most teams do, these backups are going to step in and do a good job.

“We certainly know we are going up against a good front. The Saints have been great against the run, very stout, athletic, the guys up front, the linebackers have been aggressive and downhill, safeties and nickel players who get involved in the box.”

Lindy’s Prediction: New Orleans 42, Indianapolis 23