Being a fan of the New Orleans Saints this year has been like riding the world's longest rollercoaster. Not necessarily the scariest ride because the team isn't a dumpster fire like Jacksonville and Urban Meyer who is doing his best Nicholson impression from the Departed. No, it's the longest one because it seems like something is happening weekly if not bi-weekly. From losing our star Wide Receiver in Michael Thomas before the season began to losing Jameis Winston to David Onyemata being suspended to multiple injuries throughout the season that include names like Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, Chauncey Gardner Johnson, Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, and many others. And even with all of that the Saints still have a shot at making the playoffs. Here are 3 things that MUST OCCUR for the Saints to make the playoffs.

1. Saints Must Win Against The Buccaneers This Sunday(Dec 19)

This game has become so important for the Saints because if they win this game they move to 7-7. By winning this game it puts you back in the hunt squarely with the 49ers. And I know you're thinking there are other teams in the hunt but right now let's focus on the 49ers. By beating the Buccaneers the Saints control their own destiny because their remaining games for the season, I won't say are a cakewalk but they are some of their easiest games of the season. Comparing that to the 49ers' remaining schedule which is the Falcons, Titans, Texans, and Rams. All harder games than what the Saints face in The Buccaneers, Dolphins, Panthers, and Falcons. By winning this week the Saints are now the favorite for the final wildcard spot but also it allows for them to compete with the 49ers for the 6th spot in the playoffs. Now to the other 6-7 teams, by winning this game the Saints will play the Falcons and can knock them out. The NFC East will beat itself up and the Vikings are such a Jekyll & Hyde team that I believe they will cause themselves to miss out on the playoffs. But even if they don't they still have to play the Rams and Packers and I think one of those will be a loss. With all of that said that places more importance on this game. And if the Saints want to make the Playoffs then they have to beat the Buccaneers.

2. The Saints Defense Has To Be Elite For The Rest Of The Season

The Saints' defense has been the best part of the team for the entire season. The Saints are ranked 6th in rush yards allowed, are tied at 5th for rush touchdowns allowed with 10, and tied 6th for passing touchdowns allowed with 18. Those are stats that represent a good to great defense. For this team to get to elite they need to limit the passing yards allowed because they are at the in between the middle and bottom of the league for that stat. They have allowed 3179 opposing passing yards. That is one area where the Saints have to finish the season stronger at. If they can do that this defense will be elite. They are an elite rush defense and a solid passing defense. However for the Saints to make the playoffs the secondary led by Marshon Lattimore must step up. If Marcus Williams wants to get paid this offseason he has to bring it week in and week out. But more specifically Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, PJ Williams, and Bradley Roby are the keys to this defense being elite. And getting Chauncey-Gardner Johnson back with that unit is huge because he not only adds great energy but he's another rusher that the Saints can use to add pressure. When that unit plays well the Saints are a very hard team to beat.

3. Alvin Kamara & Taysom Hill Must Run The Ball Like Their Lives Depended On It

The Saints' offense has been lackluster this year, to say the least. The passing game without Jameis, no Michael Thomas, and a questionable wide receiver room has been flat-out terrible. When Nick Vannett is the top reception getter in a game that tells you how bad this passing game for the Saints has been. However there has been a bright spot, and that is none other than Alvin Kamara. Alvin is clearly the Saints' best player, their most important player, and their franchise player. When Alvin is on the field the rest of the offense just looks more confident. But what the Saints need from Alvin is to be dominant running the ball and receiving the ball whether in the screen game or in the slot( I count those dump-offs as mini runs by the way). When the ball is in his hands the Saints have a better chance at winning. Also when Alvin is a factor in the game the opposing defense has to account for him. This allows for our current starter at quarterback Taysom Hill to take advantage. Because this can open up a path for him to dominate on the ground. And when Taysom and Alvin are running the ball well the Saints can open up the passing game. With defenses focused on both Alvin and Taysom, Sean can begin to call play-action plays for shots down the field. These receivers aren't the best but when you can put them in good situations then they can be successful. This is why Alvin and Taysom must run the ball as their lives depended on it. Because if not the Saints have no chance at winning games let alone making the playoffs.

Now I know what you are thinking, well that is easier said than done. True the Saints are stacked behind the 8-ball now and it really doesn't look good for them making the playoffs if I'm being honest. However, if I'm also being honest it isn't quite over yet. But I do believe that it starts with the game this weekend against the Buccaneers. If the Saints win then watch out the ball is in their court and they control their destiny. If the Saints lose then you can hang it up and start focusing on who they should draft in the NFL draft. But as we have seen in the past, if you have an elite defense and a great run game then you can make the playoffs in the NFL. I mean heck you can win the super bowl looking at you Trent Dilfer & The Ravens. Now I'm not saying by any means the Saints are that Ravens team but what I am saying is the Saints have a great defense and a great run game. And if they can tie it together now then there's still hope that they can make the playoffs.

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