Saints Rams Football

New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen paces the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

Ring out the old, ring in the new.

At least that’s what the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans are hoping to do as we get ready to flip the calendars to 2024.

But before we do that, the Saints and Pelicans get to write one final chapter in their respective 2023 books.

Sunday is the final day of the year, a New Year’s Eve when each of the city’s teams play a game that will help define the character of both franchises even more.

One team that struggles starting games (the Saints) and another that struggles finishing games (the Pelicans) will both try to put it all together for four quarters and get a win.

Two games 480 miles apart, both putting New Orleans teams in what should be a revenge-seeking state of mind.

The Saints travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon, while the Pelicans will be home in the Smoothie King Center playing the Los Angeles Lakers at 6.

For the Saints, their postseason hopes are on the line.

For the Pelicans, their competitiveness is on the line.

For both teams, it’s a chance to erase a pair of embarrassing losses from earlier in the season.

The Saints lost to the Buccaneers 26-9 in October, the most lopsided loss in the Dennis Allen era. It was the Saints’ third straight loss to the Buccaneers, the first time the Saints have ever lost to their NFC South foes that many consecutive times.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, look to avenge a 133-89 beatdown to the Lakers in Las Vegas in the semifinals of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. That 44-point loss is the worst of the Willie Green era.

“Just a lack of competitive spirit from our group," Green said after that nationally televised debacle. "And that’s not indicative of who we’ve been and who we are.”

Sunday, Green’s Pelicans can prove that night in Vegas was a fluke and they are indeed able to stay on the floor with the LeBron James-led Lakers.

A win won’t make or break the Pelicans’ season, but beating a team that dominated them so handily less than a month ago would be the perfect way to cap off their 2023. It should be an electric atmosphere in the Smoothie King Center, and not just because New Orleans legends Juvenile and Mannie Fresh will be performing at halftime.

For the Saints, the at Raymond James Stadium very well could make or break their season. If the Saints win, their slim playoff hopes remain alive. If they don’t, they will be assured of missing the postseason for a third straight year.

To win the division title, the Saints need to beat the Bucs and then beat the rival Atlanta Falcons in the final week of the season. Even if they do that, they will still need some help to win the NFC South: The Carolina Panthers, one of the worst teams in the league, must upset the Buccaneers in the finale.

The Saints (7-8) only have themselves to blame for a season filled with so much optimism that has come down to them needing help to make the playoffs.

It’s been a season filled with disappointments, one where they’ve beaten a lot of bad teams and lost to a lot of good ones.

“We are what we’ve earned,” said Saints quarterback Derek Carr. “The whole year has been tough. The one thing our guys have shown is they keep fighting.”

Sunday marks the 66th time the Saints and Pelicans have played on the same day. Only 14 times have they both won on the same day. Can they make it 15 on a day when both teams are playing meaningful games? It would be a heckuva way to close out 2023.

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