Forget that the New England Patriots are number one in the AFC again. Forget that somehow, someway the San Francisco 49ers are undefeated this year, coming from a 4-12 season the previous year. But all eyes are also on Sean Payton and the 2019 New Orleans Saints. His team has officially put the league on notice: don’t ever doubt them.
Don’t Doubt the 2019 New Orleans Saints
First, I don’t know how Payton could not win Coach of the Year. He proved he can coach anyone. The Saints went up against the Chicago Bears not only without Drew Brees, but without Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. During the season, you’d notice the Saints have frequently used targets: Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill. They are building their own chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints are evolving before the league’s eyes showing they are a top competitor with or without Drew Brees.
After the injury to the star quarterback against the Rams, the Saints had to take a different approach. They had to explore tightening up the defense. They had to prepare to get Bridgewater comfortable with the starting offense players. A major difference in the offensive line is the time in the pocket. Bridgewater has had an ample amount of time to find a target, contributing to his high completion rate.
Taking a dive to the defense, the spotlight is on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who got his first start as a Saints player due to P.J Williams being suspended. Gardner-Johnson had a solid game against the Bears with only allowing seven of 11 targets to be completed and 19 yards gained. He ended the game with six tackles. He passed his audition and proved he could be an asset to the team. It is going to be interesting to see if Payton decides to explore his abilities more in the season.
The Return of Drew Brees
Brees has been absent from the field for five games with his thumb injury and has been present with the team for the past two games. With his rehab in place, he has started to train with a regulated NFL football and has made it to limited practice status on the injury report. With all of this around, his return which was confirmed Saturday by ESPN’s Dianna Russini is among the bigger storylines in the NFL this week.
In all honesty, the Saints still have plenty of football left. The final games of the season are mostly NFC opponents with multiple game appearances from the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers. Personally, I would not want to put Bridgewater in that pressure just yet. Brees is in full effect. He’s officially ready to play, and Saints nation will be firmly behind him 100 percent.