So how do the New Orleans Saints go about kicking on, from being the NFC’s bridesmaids to finally making their way to the Championship game and beyond?
Clearly, Drew Brees is going to be central to those hopes.
He may be 41 years old now, but the quarterback is still delivering an elite level of performance – his passing average is still up with the best in the business, and so too is his ratio of completed touchdown passes. And that’s before we mention his raft of all-time records…
Brees is the kind of player who deserves the $50 million, two-year extension he signed in March, but the question is will he fulfil it? The former Super Bowl MVP has said that he wants to play util he’s 45, but will a catalogue of injuries and complaints ultimately catch up with him?
Surgery on a damaged thumb cost him five games of the 2019 season, and in the past he has experienced significant turmoil in his throwing shoulder – tearing his rotator cuff and suffering a tear in his labrum too.
And then there was the confusion from comments made by head coach Sean Payton, who told ESPN that “the unique situation with our team and with our quarterback Drew Brees is he’s announced he’s coming back for his final season.” Whether a slip of the tongue or not, the insinuation is that 2020 will be Brees’ last in a Saints jersey.
So will he be able to sign off on a high? Priced at +1200 in the latest Super Bowl NFL odds on bet365, the sportsbooks aren’t completely writing the New Orleans franchise off, and indeed if Brees and a few other key contributors shine then perhaps the team can help their star quarterback experience a glorious ‘retirement’ season.
Thomas’ Time to Shine
All good quarterbacks need quality targets to aim for.
In 2019, Brees enjoyed a fruitful partnership with wide receiver Michael Thomas, who topped the NFL’s stats for receiving yards.
You could argue that he was overworked, having been the passing target on 28 more occasions than any other receiver in the competition, and so there is a necessity for other Saints to emerge to prevent the team’s offensive play from becoming too one-dimensional.
Guys like the tight end Jarod Cook are highly capable at the business end of the pitch, while Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray can also lighten the load.
But if Thomas can deliver elite-level performances once more – and Brees can stay injury free – there’s no reason why the Saints can’t end their NFC Championship hoodoo in 2020-21.