The 2017 NFL preseason comes to a close this Thursday, Aug. 31, with all 32 teams in action. The following Thursday, the season will begin with defending champions the New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs and a full slate of games around the rest of the league.
New Orleans will end the preseason in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, which will broadcast on NBC. This is the last tune-up game before the Saints do it for real on Monday Night Football on Sept. 11 when they play the Minnesota Vikings.
College football begins on the same night, so a few folks will watch games that count over games that don’t. Here are three things should you watch for if you are going to watch the Saints-Ravens game.
1. The a healthy end to the preseason
Several teams have lost players they counted on to make major contributions this season. Injuries are part of the game, but every team wants to make it through four games that don’t count in the standings without a major injury.
In the final preseason game, no team wants to see a star player suffer an injury that will limit the person’s availability for the regular season, or even worse, have to miss the whole season with a major injury.
There is no telling if the starters are going to play or for how many snaps. Either way, the Saints want to make it through this game with every player they already know is going to make the roster.
A big injury in this game could derail the season before it even gets started.
2. Who will make the final roster
This game is the last chance for players to impress coaches. Careers are on the line for players at the bottom of the depth charts and roster. Players such as quarterback Garrett Grayson could be getting their final chance to make the roster this season. It could be the game that determines if the Saints keep three quarterbacks, including Ryan Nassib.
New Orleans will be looking for defensive players who can make big plays for final roster spots. If a player can rush the passer, force turnovers or cover receivers, this is the game to show all those skills.
New Orleans needs to find the best 53-man roster it can put together before the season starts. Players who hope to make the roster need to be put in positions to show what they bring to the table for a chance to make the team.
3. Playing for the win
Momentum is a funny thing. When teams have momentum, it seems like nothing can go wrong, but when it is missing, it feels like nothing can go right.
New Orleans needs to keep up the momentum it has built with its defense this preseason. The unit needs to enter the season feeling good about itself with another good showing.
That means the Saints should play for victory in this final preseason game. No need to play for overtime but play to get a win until the decision is no longer in doubt.
Coming out of the preseason with some momentum and team feeling good about itself could help prevent the slow starts that have plagued the Saints in recent years.