A week after his record-tying Christmas Day performance, Alvin Kamara faces the prospect of missing the Saints’ playoff opener.
The star running back tested positive for COVID-19 Friday, according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football (on Twitter). Kamara took another test, and it came back positive, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Kamara did not practice Friday.
Kamara is not symptomatic, according to Underhill (on Twitter). The Saints went to the playoffs in each of Kamara’s first three seasons; he did not miss any of those games. The former third-round pick has only missed three regular-season games in his career.
Should Kamara remain asymptomatic, he will be cleared to play in New Orleans’ first playoff game — should that game occur on Sunday, Jan. 10, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The NFL has a new playoff schedule this year; three wild-card games will occur on Saturday and Sunday. Should the league slot the Saints as a Sunday team — if, in fact, they do not obtain the No. 1 seed — Kamara has a chance to play.
The Saints have a chance at home-field advantage in the NFC, which becomes more important now. The Saints have won one road playoff game in franchise history, but securing the bye now would limit the chances Kamara misses a postseason game. A three-way tie atop the conference between the Saints, Packers and Seahawks would give New Orleans its second No. 1 seed in three seasons. This would mean a Green Bay loss and a Seattle win Sunday, in addition to New Orleans defeating Carolina. However, the Packers are favored to beat the Bears this week and clinch the top spot.
Kamara rushed for six touchdowns in Week 16, tying Ernie Nevers‘ 91-year-old record, and leads the NFL with 21 total TDs. He battled ankle trouble in 2019 but missed just two games. He has played all 15 of the Saints’ contests this year and established a new career high with 1,688 scrimmage yards. The Saints earning the No. 2 seed — which they would if the current spots hold — would mean a matchup with the Rams, Cardinals or Bears in Round 1. As it stands, Latavius Murray (656 rushing yards; five total TDs) would start in that game.
The Saints, however, have navigated this season without key players at multiple junctures. Michael Thomas remains on IR and has missed much of the season due to ailments and a suspension. Drew Brees missed four games because of cracked ribs and a punctured lung but has since returned. This Kamara situation will be more of the same for New Orleans, which endured a first-round upset with Kamara, Brees and a healthy Thomas last season.