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New Orleans Saints' quarterback situation is uncertain

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The Sports Xchange
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to throw the ball down field during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans December 6, 2015. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to throw the ball down field during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans December 6, 2015. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

METAIRIE, La. -- After being eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday and one night later falling to the Detroit Lions to clinch their second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1999, the New Orleans Saints are in future mode.

Yes, they'll be trying to win their last two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday and on the road against the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 2, but the future isn't that far from the conversation.

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The Saints (5-9) can match last year's record with two victories -- starting with Sunday's home matchup with the Jaguars (5-9), but the only thing on the line is positioning for the draft next spring.

That has brought about plenty of speculation already about the team going forward and whether it will be with, or without, coach Sean Payton and/or quarterback Drew Brees.

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Even before it was reported by ESPN's Ed Werder on Tuesday afternoon that Brees tore the plantar fascia in his right foot in the second quarter of Monday night's 35-27 loss to the Detroit Lions, questions about Brees and his salary-cap figure of $30 million for 2016 were a hot subject.

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Brees, who was listed as day-to-day by Payton on Wednesday even though the team didn't practice, is getting a second opinion from renowned foot and ankle specialist Dr. Richard Anderson on the MRI he had done Tuesday.

Brees said he wants to play the final two games of the season after not missing a snap while playing almost three full quarters with the injury Monday night.

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Payton said Wednesday that he won't be able to answer questions about Brees' ability to play this Sunday until the team hears back from Dr. Anderson. The injury could affect Brees' ability to play because he has to plant the right foot when making throws.

"We're kind of taking it day by day," Payton said. "I know he's had it looked at, he's had an MRI. Each day we'll gather more information and have a better idea of where he's going to be as it pertains to playing in this game or not."

If Brees can't go against the Jaguars, the Saints will likely turn to veteran Matt Flynn, who replaced injured backup Luke McCown last month, although third-round draft pick Garrett Grayson is on the active roster as well.

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Meanwhile, Payton on Wednesday tried to shoot down various media reports that have been circulating since October about his future with the team.

In a conference call with Jacksonville reporters, Payton, who has two years remaining on his contract, said he sees himself returning to New Orleans.

"I see myself coaching this team long past this season," he said, pointing out there have been lots of rumors in the past about him leaving the Saints and he's still there.

"I said this earlier in the season, this is my ninth year coaching here in New Orleans and it's come up every, I'm going to say, two to three years," Payton said. "Listen, it comes with the territory."

Payton also said he considers New Orleans his home.

"I just finished building a home here," he said. "I'm close enough to my son back in Dallas where I'm pretty much back there once a week or he's over here. My daughter is off in college now."

SERIES HISTORY: Sixth regular-season meeting. Saints lead series 3-2. The Saints have won the last two games, beating the Jaguars 41-24 in Jacksonville's last visit to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2007 and taking a 23-10 decision at Everbank Field in 2010. Of course, the most famous game between the two teams came on Dec. 21, 2003, when the Saints used a pass and three laterals to complete an amazing 75-yard TD on the game's final play -- which later was dubbed the "River City Relay." The score pulled the Saints to within one point at 20-19, but they couldn't get the game to overtime when the extra point sailed wide right.

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GAME PLAN: With Drew Brees' status up in the air because of an injured right foot, the Saints' offense could be in the hands of veteran Matt Flynn or rookie Garrett Grayson, a third-round pick, on Sunday. Since Flynn has only been with the team a few weeks and Grayson has only preseason experience, Sean Payton might have to scale back the offense a little if Brees can't play. That could mean a heavy dose of the running game with Tim Hightower, C.J. Spiller and Travaris Cadet, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday. Then again, Flynn has had some decent passing games in his career, and the Jaguars rank 25th in the league in allowing 260.5 yards per game. That may be the better option considering the Jaguars rank 12th against the run.

Defensively, the Saints will have to find a way to stop a Jaguars' passing game that has had its moments this season behind quarterback Blake Bortles. The Saints will probably be in the crosshairs since they rank 30th in the league in passing yards allowed at 276.4 yards per game while giving up 39 TD passes. Bortles has 31 scoring passes and has more than 3,800 passing yards, but he's been sacked 41 times. The Saints will have to play more like they did in a win over Tampa Bay two weeks ago, when it held Jameis Winston to just 182 yards, than the unit that has been shredded by almost every other quarterback they faced.

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MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Saints secondary vs. Jaguars WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

Robinson and Hurns have become a formidable and productive duo. While he didn't get the nod, Robinson was worthy of a Pro Bowl berth with 69 receptions for 1,141 yards with a 16.5 average and 13 TDs. Hurns has 53 catches for 907 yards and eight TDs while averaging 17.1 yards per grab.

--Saints DE Cameron Jordan vs. Jaguars LT Luke Joeckel.

Jordan, a first-round pick in 2011, should lock horns a lot with Joeckel, who was the second overall pick of the 2013 draft. Jordan, a Pro Bowl pick in 2013 when he recorded 12.5 sacks, has nine this season -- the second-highest total of his career. While he has 38 career sacks, Jordan will be put to the test by Joeckel in trying to get into the backfield to pressure Blake Bortles.

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