Without a doubt, the window has closed. New Orleans will not win another Super Bowl with Drew Brees as quarterback, though that’s not an indictment of Brees. He’s still one of the NFL’s elite passers. His desire to win seems as strong as ever.
The Saints are simply far too weak defensively to be anything more than a fringe playoff team in the near future. It could take years to rebuild the defense, and at 37, Brees does not have many great years left.
Still, no matter how it might fizzle in the end, Brees and coach Sean Payton have had a great run that started in 2006 and peaked with a Super Bowl win after the 2009 season.
This is a sentimental time for the Saints, who host the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, 10 years and one day after the teams met in a game that celebrated the reopening of the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.
“I’ll say the same thing about this game as we did 10 years ago, and this is, you’ve got to win it,” Brees said at a news conference this week. “It doesn’t mean as much unless you win.”
New Orleans is 0-2, losing to Oakland and the New York Giants by a total of four points. The defense broke down in Week 1, and the offense and special teams faltered in Week 2. Look for Brees to rebound in a big way in Week 3.
This sets up as a classic Superdome shootout. The Falcons rank 29th and the Saints rank 31st in total defense. Both offenses rank in the league’s top 10. New Orleans has averaged 35.3 points in its past seven home games.
Matt Ryan, off one of his most impressive games in recent seasons, passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-28 victory over the Raiders. While Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones are likely to rip apart New Orleans’ soft secondary, Brees should do the same to Atlanta’s defense.
Brees, who has not thrown an interception in his past 268 attempts, is 15-5 against the Falcons after leading the Saints to a series sweep last year.
The Falcons, 2-8 in their past 10 trips to the Superdome, are on the road for the second week in a row and running into a desperate Saints team at the wrong time. I’ll back the 3-point favorite on an emotional night in New Orleans.
This game has the potential to be even more entertaining than the first Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump presidential debate at the same time.
Four more plays for Week 3 (home team in CAPS):
* BENGALS (-3) over Broncos: The Denver defense has covered for the shortcomings of quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has one touchdown pass and three interceptions. Cincinnati is 18-7 against the spread in its past 25 home games. A banged-up Andy Dalton can rise to the occasion and outduel Siemian.
* Redskins (+4) over GIANTS: Kirk Cousins is under siege, and Washington coach Jay Gruden is just as unpopular as his quarterback. The Redskins are 0-2 and in disarray, which means this is a good time for them to get away from home. New York has won two games by a total of four points. This is a play on a team the public hates and a play against a team the public loves. Cousins’ costly turnovers aside, Washington’s offense (408 yards per game) has been more productive.
* PACKERS (-7) over Lions: Green Bay’s home opener is a rare revenge spot. Detroit won at Lambeau Field last year for the first time since 1991. The Lions limp into this game without injured running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are ready to bust loose offensively after a poor performance at Minnesota.
* Bears (+7) over COWBOYS: It’s tough to back the Bears, but quarterback Brian Hoyer will play hard and earn the respect of his teammates, unlike Jay Cutler. Dallas is 1-8 straight up in its past nine home games.
Last week: 4-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247