The air was still on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. I guess you could say there was a *dramatically removes sunglasses* lack of Brees. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who finished second in MVP voting last season, left Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams after a hand-to-hand collision with Aaron Donald.
On the Saints’ second possession of the game, Brees threw an incomplete pass, his hand and Donalds’ swatting paw collided and Brees left the game while backup Teddy Bridgewater played the remainder of the contest. The Rams won 27-9, as the Saints went touchdown-less without their future Hall of Fame passer.
Brees was seen leaving the field with his right thumb heavily wrapped. His thumb was evaluated Sunday night, and Monday morning it was reported that he sustained a torn ligament and is expected to miss about six weeks.
For the time being, New Orleans will have to make due with Bridgewater, a sixth-year pro from Louisville. Formerly a starter that some considered a potential franchise quarterback until injuries derailed his early development, Bridgewater has to see this as an opportunity to become a starting-caliber passer.
The Saints’ offense still has staggering talent all over the place. Their offensive line isn’t only big and strong, but it is among the smartest and most disciplined in the league. Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara are consensus top five, and some would argue top three, in the NFL at their respective positions.
Ted Ginn Jr. isn’t the most proven pass catcher, but he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Tre’Quan Smith was also knocked out of Sunday’s games against the Rams and is currently waiting for the results of an x-ray to determine his injury’s severity. If Smith is cleared to play, he’s an electric, young threat that defenses are forced to respect. Jared Cook is also a big and fast veteran tight end that Bridgewater can depend on.
Bridgewater doesn’t have much recent experience for us to draw from. He started his career in 2014 and earned the Vikings starting quarterback job in the fifth game of the season when starter Matt Cassel broke his foot. He compiled an impressive resume from that point until the end of 2015. In 2014 he went 6-6 as the starter and threw 2919 yards (224.5 per game), 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with three fumbles. This was good enough for Bridgewater to earn NFL Rookie of the Year honors. In 2015, he led the Vikings to a 11-5 record with 3231 yards (201.9 per game), 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions and eight fumbles.
Since that 2015 season, Bridgewater only played in seven games counting Sunday when Brees left the game. He only has 55 pass attempts, again counting the 30 that he threw Sunday. Why? A torn ACL. On Aug. 30, 2016, Bridgewater suffered a non-contact knee injury in practice. Before the season even started, it was over for Bridgewater. Since recovering from the injury, he has served as a backup waiting for the opportunity to prove that he still has all of the talent he had before. Now is the time, Teddy.
Bridgewater is second on the depth chart, but Taysom Hill lurks right below him. If Bridgewater struggles, head coach Sean Payton likely won’t hesitate to go with Hill, who Payton once likened to Steve Young.
With Brees projected to miss six weeks, that will likely take the Saints right up to their Week Nine bye with Bridgewater under center. New Orleans’ schedule from now until their bye looks like this: at Seattle, home against Dallas, home against Tampa, at Jacksonville, at Chicago and home against Arizona.
Even without Brees, the Saints have so much talent and are well coached. The home games against Tampa Bay and Arizona should be wins, so I would set the floor at 2-4. The road game against the Jaguars also seems winnable to me, especially if Nick Foles is still out with his collarbone injury. As impressive as Gardner Menshew’s swagger is, the Saints’ roster is just more complete than Jacksonville’s. That game will likely be a win for New Orleans.
The road game in Seattle is the least likely game for the Saints to win over this stretch. It will be Bridgewater’s first start since the 2018 regular season finale, where he started in place for Brees with the No. 1 seed already clinched by New Orleans. Seattle is one of the hardest places to play and Pete Carroll knows how to torture young, inexperienced quarterbacks. I don’t expect much from Bridgewater in his first real test next week.
The home game against the Cowboys and the game in Chicago seem to me like it could be a 1-1 split in either direction. The Bears have one of the league’s best defenses and they’re especially scary at home, but Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t had an impressive start to 2019. Maybe by then he’ll have it figured out, but as it stands right now, the Saints have a shot.
The Cowboys are scary on both sides of the ball with threats that can hurt you all over the place on offense. Away from Dallas, however, they’re a totally different animal. They were 7-1 at home last season, but 3-5 on the road. Because of this, I also think the Saints have a chance in this one.
Here is my bottom-line prediction for the Saints’ record without Brees: 4-2. Lock in the wins against Tampa, Arizona and Jacksonville, then add a win from either the Cowboys or Bears game. That would take them into their Week Nine bye at 5-3 and well within the playoff hunt. Fear not Who Dat nation, expect New Orleans to remain Super Bowl LIV contention.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.