New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and teammates comfort defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) after he was injured in the first half of the divisional round of the NFC playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019.

The Saints will be without a big piece of their defense after an MRI confirmed the team's fears on Sheldon Rankins' injury. 

The star defensive tackle suffered a torn Achilles during the team's playoff victory over the Eagles and is scheduled for surgery this week. 

The third-year player -- who notched career highs in sacks and tackles this season -- suffered the injury midway through the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Eagles. He was carted off the field. 

"He's a big player, a prime-time player," defensive tackle David Onyemata said. "Having him gone is tough just thinking about it. At the same time we have to step up and play big for one of our guys. We have to do it for him."

Teammate Alex Okafor said he knew immediately what he thought the injury was, having torn his own Achilles last season. 

"When he went down, I saw what he was holding, saw the way his leg was, the way his foot was turned. I had a feeling that was it, but I didn’t want to expect the worst," Okafor said.

He said he was "devastated" for his teammate, but offered words of encouragement, aided by his own insight into the rehab process. The hope is Rankins is able to return in time for next season.

"Achilles injuries aren’t what they used to be. They aren’t career enders," Okafor said. "They’re just a little bump in the road. I know he’ll be all right. He still has the best ball in front of him just because the dude he is."

The Saints were trailing 7-0 at the time of Rankins' injury, and went down 14 after the Eagles scored later on that drive. They held the Eagles scoreless the remainder of the game, though, scoring the game's final 20 points to secure a spot in the NFC Championship against the Los Angeles Rams. 

That game is scheduled to kick off at 2:05 p.m. on January 20 (Fox).

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