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Key ingredients to a New Orleans Saints victory vs. Panthers, presented by Papa John's

Teddy Bridgewater among Saints players who have a chance to shine in regular-season finale

Taylor Stallworth

Officials will be uniformed and authorized to penalize, fans will be present and boisterous, the scoreboard fully will be operational, vendors will be working and providing food and drink.

An NFL regular-season game is scheduled to be played Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The New Orleans Saints might as well do their best to win it.

They've done so 13 times in the first 15 games, often enough to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the playoffs. So, what remains is to add a 14th victory – which would be a franchise regular-season record – before enjoying a bye week and preparing for their divisional playoff opponent.

Here are a few items to keep an eye on during the regular-season finale.

  1. Fans have been aching to see backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's skills on display. Sunday, Bridgewater finally will do more than throw one pass or kneel in victory formation (actually, the kneeling in victory will be something fans still will want to see). Coach Sean Payton has lauded Bridgewater's intelligence and remarked on how he can make all the throws. The good thing is, he'll be throwing to receivers with whom he already has a rapport, because they've been his main targets in practice. Same goes for the center exchange – if he's taking his snaps from Cameron Tom, all the better because Tom likely carries out those duties in practice. Bridgewater last played significant snaps Jan. 10, 2016, in a playoff loss for Minnesota. He suffered a major knee injury in training camp that year, missed the 2016 season, played in a game for Minnesota in '17 (two pass attempts), made a stop with the Jets, and was traded to the Saints this preseason. He has taken snaps in four games for the Saints. This is the next step, and his teammates will be amped to watch him play and to play with him.
  2. Stay healthy. There's no way to guarantee health, of course, and players can't tiptoe around the field, hoping to avoid contact. They'll go all out for however long they're on the field, because that's the only way to play the game. But proper precaution will be taken within context – limited exposure (i.e., low snap counts) will be good for several players, no snaps will be better for others. Don't worry – the Saints have been in this position; they rested players then, and it all worked out fine. Granted, this nearly is a totally different roster from 2009; only quarterback Drew Brees, offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod and punter Thomas Morstead are with New Orleans now and were with New Orleans then. Still, the method proved to be wise and there seems to be no reason to tinker with that aspect of the process.
  3. The Saints have a hungry, young group of defensive linemen behind the names you know. Defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth and defensive end Trey Hendrickson should get some extensive reps in this game (Hendrickson has been inactive for much of the season, but he's talented and driven as a pass rusher). And rookie first-round pick Marcus Davenport might break a nice sweat, too, since defensive ends Cam Jordan and Alex Okafor could be on the "rest" list. With the Panthers starting undrafted rookie Kyle Allen at quarterback, there may be a chance for them to make some plays

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