TAMPA — Homefield advantage throughout the playoffs still is a possibility for the Saints, who already have punched their ticket for the postseason.
In other words, there's no chance the Saints will rest their starters Sunday against the Bucs in the regular-season finale.
Coach Sean Payton said Thursday that his team will go all out to get its 12th win.
With a win Sunday, New Orleans can win the NFC South and become the No. 1 seed in the NFC if the Falcons lose to the 2-13 Panthers at the Georgia Dome. If Atlanta wins, as expected, the Saints would be the No. 5 seed an on the road (barring the No. 6 seed advancing to the NFC title game) throughout the playoffs.
Both games are at 1 p.m.
"Our focus … is strictly on doing everything we can to win this game and to get to 12," Payton said. "Clearly, as scores come up, the fans and everyone else pays attention. But that won't impact our approach one bit."
However, the loss of the Saints' top receiver could have an impact. Marques Colston had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Tuesday and might not be able to play Sunday.
Colston, who leads the Saints with 84 receptions and 1,023 yards, had a procedure Payton described as a relatively minor "clean-up." Colston was sore after Monday night's win over the Falcons.
Colston hasn't been ruled out. He did not practice Thursday.
Payton said the injury was a factor in the decision to sign WR Adrian Arrington from the practice squad. To make room on the roster, the Saints placed KR Courtney Roby on injured reserve because of a concussion he sustained Dec. 12.
PLAYOFF MODE FOR BUCS: Tampa Bay needs help to reach the playoffs. In addition to having to beat or tie New Orleans, the Bucs need the Giants to lose at Washington and the visiting Bears to beat the Packers.
With no margin for error, the Bucs say they began their postseason last week against Seattle.
"You want to be in the position where you have clinched and now you are playing for homefield advantage," QB Josh Freeman said. "Unfortunately, there were some games earlier in the year that we really should have won, but we weren't able to close it out.
"We still have a chance. It's a slim chance, but it's a chance. We won't have a chance if we can't take care of business this Sunday."
Said LB Adam Hayward, "All we know is that we can control this game. … If we win, like we should do, well that's the only thing we can control."
LEE COULD RETURN AT RT: James Lee, who missed most of the past two games with an ankle sprain, took the first reps at right tackle but still alternated with Jeremy Trueblood. Coach Raheem Morris did not name a starter and said he planned to evaluate the practice tape.
"The first-team reps are being split right now," Morris said. "I would have to say James Lee went out first. Trueblood went out second, and they went out there and competed again (Thursday). I've got to go watch tape and evaluate it, obviously."
In other injury news, FB Earnest Graham (neck) is out. WR Sammie Stroughter (hamstring) and TE Kellen Winslow (knee) returned to practice.