Topic: Saints coach Sean Payton wants to make history this

How badly remains to be seen. That will be judged in part by the players he tries to win with when the playoff-bound Saints (13-2) host the reeling Carolina Panthers (6-9) on Sunday.With the Saints having clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed and Carolina out of the playoffs … -authentic , this matchup has “low stakes” written all over it — except for one thing Payton made a point of mentioning.Article continues below ...“We have a chance to win more games in the regular season than any team in Saints history,” said Payton, who has now coached New Orleans to 13 wins in three seasons since taking over in 2006. “There’s a lot at stake relative to some individuals, but also the evaluation process and then also as a team being able to hit that 14th win. I think that that’s a lot.”Payton declined to get specific about who he meant by “some individuals,” but odds are he was referring to reserves who’ve been competing all season for snaps — not players like record-setting quarterback Drew Brees, dynamic running back Alvin Kamara or leading receiver Michael Thomas.Payton announced after Friday’s practice that he intends to start Brees’ backup, Teddy Bridgewater, but declined to go into specifics about playing time at other positions.Still, it hardly seemed worth the risk to subject the club’s most productive players to possible injury, considering a trip to the Super Bowl is two home victories away after this final regular-season obligation has been dispensed with.Panthers coach Ron Rivera said earlier this week that he didn’t see the point in guessing the Saints’ personnel plans and was preparing for New Orleans’ usual offense.“We’re preparing for Kamara, we’re preparing for (Mark) Ingram … son-jersey , and we’re preparing for their best shot,” Rivera said.If anything, Rivera is more concerned with keeping his own players sharp. As a former player himself, Rivera appreciates the challenge of getting emotionally and mentally ready for a game that — at least for established players whose futures are secure — won’t have much riding on it.“It’s a challenge. At the end of the day, it really comes down to the players controlling it themselves,” Rivera said. “I can say what I want to say and try and do things the way I want to do them, but it really does come down to the guys stepping up. It’s difficult. I get it. I have been there.”Some other story lines surrounding Panthers-Saints:MAIDEN STARTPanthers undrafted free agent Kyle Allen will make his first career start at quarterback.The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Allen replaces Taylor Heinicke, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after injuring his elbow in his first career start last week, a 24-10 loss to the Falcons.The team signed Garrett Gilbert on Wednesday to back up Allen. Both were in Panthers training camp.Cam Newton remains on the team’s active 53-man roster, but the team does not want to activate him for the game because he’s dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that limits velocity on longer throws.TEDDY’S BALLGAMEIt’s fair to say the 26-year-old Bridgewater has unfinished business in the NFL. The former first-round draft choice by Minnesota had practically all of his previous two seasons wiped out by a career-threatening knee injury. The Saints Devin Bush Jersey , who’ve had their sights set on the Super Bowl since coming a play away from advancing to last season’s NFC championship game, traded for Bridgewater late in preseason as insurance. Now Bridgewater is set to see his first sustained action in a game since the 2015 season. He has appeared in just four games this season in mop-up duty and attempted only one pass, an incompletion.“Just thinking about the road I’ve had to take to get to this point, I’m excited,” Bridgewater said before Payton had announced he would start. “Being in the position I’m in, you always have to stay ready and that’s been my mindset since I arrived here. … Your opportunity can come within the blink of an eye.”Payton said Bridgewater “has a live arm” and “very quickly picked up our system.”McCAFFREY MILESTONEPanthers running back Christian McCaffrey needs 155 yards receiving against the Saints to join Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.However, it’s unclear if the Panthers will go for that record or not. Rivera has said the team needs to be careful with some of its stars and use this opportunity to look at some younger players.McCaffrey eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing last week and also set an NFL record for receptions by a running back in a season with 106.LAST HURRAH?This could be the final game for several longtime Panthers. Center Ryan Kalil already has said he’ll retire after the season. Defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Thomas Davis have expiring contracts.Peppers, 37 http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.c … -authentic , has not said if he plans to play next season. The 35-year-old Davis, who served a four-game, league-imposed suspension to start the season, said recently he wants to play next season. The Los Angeles Angels activated two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani from the 10-day disabled list Tuesday and used him as the designated hitter in their game against the Seattle Mariners.

Ohtani and his injured right elbow are only cleared to hit for now, but Los Angeles said he will be re-evaluated as a pitcher in three weeks.

Ohtani received stem cell therapy and a platelet-rich plasma injection to help heal the Grade 2 sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament suffered more than three weeks ago. Ohtani was cleared for a hitting program Friday and took part in two simulated games against minor league pitchers over the weekend.

”We’re going to see how many looks we can give him as a (designated hitter) and hopefully he’ll give us a lift there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Ohtani went 0 for 4 in Los Angeles’ 4-1 loss to the Mariners.

Scioscia said there’s no plan in terms of Ohtani’s usage, and they’ll monitor it daily.

”He’s been cleared to swing and we will see how it all goes down,” Scioscia said. ”I check with my players all the time to make sure nothing is bothering them, but we don’t anticipate anything as far as him swinging the bat.”

Ohtani is hitting .280 with an .878 OPS and six homers in 118 at-bats in his rookie season. He batted sixth on Tuesday.

”I think it’s a good spot for him,” Scioscia said. ”When you’re talking about Mike (Trout), Albert (Pujols) Justin Layne Jersey , Justin (Upton) and (Andrelton) Simmons, hitting sixth behind those guys will hopefully be a good spot for him to hit, but also just trying to get him acclimated. We don’t want him to say, `I have to do so much,’ if he’s hitting higher in the lineup.”

Scioscia emphasized that Ohtani was not being rushed back into the lineup.

”He would not be playing here tonight if he wasn’t cleared by our medical department,” Scioscia said. ”We were very comfortable that he was able to swing the bat.”

Right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte was also called up and right-handed pitchers Deck McGuire and Eduardo Paredes were optioned to Triple-A in corresponding moves.