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Saints 'lit' over home-field advantage in NFC playoffs

NEW ORLEANS -- The joyful mood in the Saints' locker room following Sunday's 31-28 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers painted the picture of what was accomplished after the team improved to 13-2 on the season.

The players' emotions of securing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage through the playoffs signaled they understood fully that any team with desires to reach the Super Bowl must come through the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"That's something we were talking about all week, now it's just gravy on that," cornerback Eli Apple said. "In the playoffs, we're definitely going to be lit, live, and it's going to be turnt in here. I know the fans are going to be all crazy, so we can't wait."

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk agreed emphatically.

"It's so huge to be able to say we get to play here every game until the Super Bowl and obviously we got to win," Ramczyk said. "But to be able to make the teams come here and play us? It's a tough city to play in, so it's pretty big."

The offensive lineman has a point, of course, as the Saints have enjoyed the home flavor this season, posting a 6-1 record and a six-game winning streak with one game to go at the Dome. And after posting a 7-1 record at the Dome in 2017, Sunday's win marked the third time in team history that the Saints have secured six home victories in back-to-back seasons (1991-92, 2008-09).

Since Sean Payton became the Saints head coach in 2006, New Orleans is a perfect 5-0 at home in postseason games.

Clinching the No. 1 seed following Sunday's win marked the second time in team history the Saints won't need to worry about travel arrangements, with the last time that occurred came in 2009 when the Saints went on to win the Super Bowl.

Punter Thomas Morstead, who joins quarterback Drew Brees as the only players left on the roster from the Super Bowl-winning team, said every team is different. But he admits the 2018 squad has a unique quality.

"You definitely can feel it and it's special," Morstead said. "It's been really fun being an older player ... To be an older player knowing how difficult it is to put ourselves in this position, it's just really exciting. It's been fun to enjoy it and watch other guys like Drew enjoy it, and Cam (Jordan), Mark (Ingram). Those guys have been here and kind of went through the tough times, so it's been awesome."

Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed also gives the Saints an additional advantage and it surrounds recovery time.

Head coach Sean Payton was non-committal when asked after the game if he would rest starters in Week 17, offering a blunt, "We'll see."

But Payton might consider it with left tackle Terron Armstead dealing with a shoulder injury and other players dealing with assorted ailments, and having an additional break during Wild Card Weekend could prove beneficial before the divisional round.

And all the scenarios come gift-wrapped just in time for the holiday season with no added stress before the New Year.

"We've known this was the goal was to get this, to make it come through our house," Morstead said. "The home crowd was a huge difference for us tonight, so we were very motivated to get that. To put ourselves in that position now, especially right before Christmas, I think everybody is going to be able to really just relax and enjoy Christmas this week and that will be nice."

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