For the Saints, this is about as close to a playoff game as they can play without actually playing in one.
The Saints, as you know, were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week after not getting the Christmas miracle from other teams they needed to keep their slim hopes alive.
But that shouldn't stop Sunday's regular-season finale against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome from having a playoff-type atmosphere.
It is, after all, the Saints and Falcons.
Ideally, Sunday's game would've been to decide the NFC South champion. But the Falcons have already been crowned division champs, sewing up the title last week when the Saints knocked off second-place Tampa Bay.
And, yes, I know what some of you big-picture folks are thinking: The Saints should lose this one to improve their draft position.
Think again. This team won't tank.
Players have talked for the past few weeks about playing for pride. It has been the driving force behind their two-game winning streak.
But pride is just one of several reasons the Saints should treat this game like a playoff berth is at stake. Here are four other reasons the Saints shouldn't need any special motivational speeches to get up for this one:
The Saints had their fair share of close calls this season, playing 11 games decided by a touchdown or less. The Week 3 game against the Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome wasn't one of them. In fact, it was the Saints' worst performance of the season, a Monday night letdown on a night commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' return to the Dome after Hurricane Katrina and Steve Gleason's iconic blocked punt.
Instead, it was another play on a punt that folks left talking about: Who can ever forget the special-teams blunder when De'Vante Harris crashed into punt returner Tommylee Lewis? The play was easily one of the lowlights of the season, and it happened in a game the Saints lost 45-32. It was one of just two double-digit losses for the Saints this season.
Surely, they'll want revenge.
2. The spoiler role
The Saints can't get to the Super Bowl this season, but they could do what their fans would call the next best thing: Make sure the Falcons don't get there, either.
If Atlanta wins Sunday, it would get a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Saints would like nothing more than to spoil those chances.
3. One more in the Georgia Dome
The next time the Saints head to Atlanta, they'll be playing in a building that shares the same name as their own stadium.
The Falcons will play in their $1.4 billion new home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, beginning next season. So for the Saints, this will be their last time playing in a building where they have had plenty of success. The Saints won their first three games in the Georgia Dome, starting with the first meeting there in 1992, and are 13-11 all-time.
4. Breaking even
For the past two seasons, the Saints have finished 7-9. A loss Sunday would be their third straight. With a win, the Saints finish 8-8.
OK, so there's not a whole lot of difference in the two, but 8-8 just sounds better. In addition, a win would mean the Saints ended the season on a three-game winning streak.
That may or may not be a good thing. The Saints have ended the season on a three-game winning streak four times (1987, 1989, 2004 and 2011) in franchise history, but the momentum of those seasons never carried over to the next season. The Saints had a worse record in each of the four seasons after the one that ended with a three-game winning streak.
So maybe the Saints are better off not winning Sunday.
Nah, this is the Falcons.
It ain't the playoffs, but it's the next best thing.