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A Drew Brees Sooner-Than-Expected Return Would Impact NFC Playoff Race

A report suggests that New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees could return sooner-than-expected from a torn thumb ligament injury that he suffered 3 weeks ago as early as Week #7 at Soldier Field in Chicago vs. the Bears or the following week at home against the Arizona Cardinals— and if that happens, it would have a big impact on the NFC Playoff race at the end of this current 2019 NFL Season. 

In a superbly-written article by NOLA,com / The New Orleans Advocate beat writer Amie Just, the current view by some medical professionals familiar with the surgical procedure that Brees underwent a few weeks ago which included the usage of the most-recent advanced technology for that particular type of injury, could potentially allow the Saints starting QB and future Hall of Famer to beat his original goal of returning to the team’s starting line-up by as much as three whole weeks.

That would put Brees back under center for the Black and Gold as early as two weeks from now (on October 20th) at Soldier Field in Chicago; when the Saints will face their NFC rivals, the Chicago Bears; or perhaps more likely the following week (October 27th) when they host the Arizona Cardinals in a Week #8 contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The original prognosis for Brees returning is after the Saints’ Bye Week in Week #10 (November 10th) at home against their hated arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, in a NFC South Divisional showdown at the Suoerdome. 

However as noted by Just: Brees thinks he can beat that original prognosis, since the timeline for those undergoing standard surgery for a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament ) repair is eight to 12 weeks; but for the advanced surgical procedure that Brees had, it’s six to eight weeks — and given his very notable and well-known dedication to his physical health, Brees is confident he’ll be back before that time.

Brees tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb (and on his throwing hand), which is one of the two major ligaments that support the thumb’s motion. The UCL is positioned on the inside of the thumb toward the index finger.

But as reported by Just, Brees underwent a more-recent and advanced procedure that uses two “InternalBrace anchors” instead of only one; which is attached to the UCL on both sides of the joint; and thereby facilitates a much-faster healing process.

So with that information in mind, if Brees were to actually return sooner than planned, it undoubtedly would not only have a huge impact upon the Saints and their current season, but in the bigger picture could have a much-longer lasting effect on the NFC Playoff race at the end of the year.

When New Orleans lost Brees initially, the belief at that time among most expert analysts that cover the NFL was that the Black and Gold would be destined to suffer through a disappointing season.

But now only just 3 weeks later with a NFC South Divisional game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled for tomorrow at the Superdome, the Saints now find themselves sitting on top of the current NFC South Division standings with a (3-1) win-loss record; following an unlikely and somewhat unexpected pair of back-to-back victories over NFC Playoff contenders the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, despite being heavy “underdogs” in each of those games. 

A combination of different factors — particularly the phenomenal play of the Saints defense and the masterful play-calling / coaching of Saints head coach Sean Payton and his Staff — have been the main reasons why the Black and Gold have managed to continue winning despite not having Brees in the starting line-up.

But if that previously-mentioned report is indeed accurate, then it means the entire National Football Conference Playoff race would be greatly impacted should Brees come back sooner than it’s been anticipated.

Obviously, it would give New Orleans a much better chance to win the NFC South Division; but additionally it would also likely have an even greater impact by allowing the Saints to win upcoming games against fellow Playoff contenders, in which they wouldn’t be expected to win without Brees.

Specifically, the game that’s scheduled for Week #7 (October 20th) at Soldier Field against the Bears; who currently also have a (3-1) win-loss record and are the current leaders of the NFC North Division standings. The Saints very likely would be overwhelming “underdogs” in that contest for sure; especially having to play in a tough road environment and the notable reputation of the Bears’ feared top-ranked defensive unit.

And while the Saints have already proven that they still could win that game anyway without the now 40-year old Brees, having him back for that game certainly would increase their odds / chances exponentially.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Perhaps more importantly: it would also give the Saints an edge if the two teams should finish with the same win-loss record and give New Orleans the tie-breaker when determining seeding for the NFC Playoffs after the regular season ends.

While not guaranteed that it will happen. such a scenario is very possible at this point; and it’s the reason why devoted Who Dat fans everywhere should be vigilant and keep a close eye out for any further developments or information regarding the timeline of Brees’ recovery.

The assumption is that Brees — in a very similar manner to other pro athletes that have previously undergone the same surgical procedure recently such as Major League Baseball superstar Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels — would have near-full restoration of his capability to grip and throw the football; which undoubtedly would be some very welcome news for both the Saints organization as well as their rabidly-passionate “Who Dat Nation” fan-base.

One important thing to keep in mind is that all of this is purely speculation at this point, so it isn’t something that anyone should be celebrating prematurely, if at all.

But knowing just how dedicated that Brees already is to returning to game-action as soon as possible and essentially “picking back up”right where he left off”, it would be unwise of anyone to bet against it actually happening, either.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Perhaps as soon as only just 2 more weeks from now when the Saints travel to Chicago, we’ll finally know one way or another.

Nevertheless, this much is certain: a sooner-than-expected return by Brees to the starting line-up would become a huge advantage for the Black and Gold, and an advantage that no one thought that they’d ever have — and it would having a lasting impact on both the NFC Playoff race and a 2019 Saints Season that just a few weeks ago, seemed headed towards “doom and gloom”….

Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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