Drew Brees looked like he came back too fast. The concern is whether he should have come back this season at all.
Brees looked off when he came back from injury, and it’s understandable. He had 11 broken ribs. He’s going to turn 42 years old on Jan. 15. He threw incomplete on his first six passes, the first time in his great career that has ever happened, and was 7-of-24 at one point in his return against the Kansas City Chiefs. He didn’t look like himself, and he didn’t deny that.
“I still have a little way to go, I'll be honest,” Brees said after the game. “There are some things I am still kind of working on, but it is what it is.”
There were some good moments. His deep 51-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders in the first half was his longest completion in three years. He did get in a rhythm in the fourth quarter. Maybe it was just a case of being a bit rusty after four games off, and he started to get it back late in the game. That happens.
But as the Saints head into a Christmas Day game against the Minnesota Vikings, they’re more of an unknown. It doesn’t help that superstar receiver Michael Thomas is on injured reserve with an ankle injury and Tre’Quan Smith suffered an ankle injury during the Saints loss. But the biggest question is Brees, and we just don’t know if he’ll bounce back or if a severe injury is too much to overcome for the rest of the season.
The Vikings are a 7-point underdog and while they have issues of their own, I’m picking Minnesota and the points for the Christmas showdown. I don’t know if Brees can bounce back, and not having Thomas is another big issue. Brees has had an all-time great career and it would be a fantastic story if he can lead the Saints through a playoff run after breaking 11 ribs, but until we see that happen it’s a big question for the rest of New Orleans’ season.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 16, with point spreads from BetMGM:
Buccaneers (-9.5) over Lions
Matthew Stafford is seriously banged up. The Lions could be without several coaches due to COVID-19 contacts, according to NFL.com. Detroit was bad to begin with and one of the teams that just wants the season to end. I don’t know that I love Tampa Bay but it’s impossible to pick the Lions.
Cardinals (-5) over 49ers
The 49ers are down another quarterback (though I don’t know that losing Nick Mullens is a downgrade), their injury list continues to grow elsewhere and their rough season has taken a toll. Losing to the Cowboys, and never really threatening to win that game, is a signal that you don’t want much to do with San Francisco the rest of the season.
Raiders (+3) over Dolphins
If it’s Marcus Mariota, I’m intrigued with the Raiders. I could see them rallying around Mariota, who played very well off the bench against the Chargers. It’s not a knock on Derek Carr, it’s just that Mariota’s running ability gives Las Vegas a different dimension. The Dolphins might not have enough healthy skill position talent to take advantage of a bad Raiders defense. Give me the upset.
Browns (-9.5) over Jets
The Jets have been much better lately. But you have to wonder how the push to avoid 0-16 was motivating them. That’s gone now that they have a win. Perhaps it’s a team that wants to finish well, a win actually gives them more confidence and they play well again. But I like what the Browns are doing lately and they still are trying to officially clinch a playoff spot.
Bengals (+8) over Texans
I’m not fooled by the Bengals coming up with one phenomenal effort against the Steelers. This is still a really bad team. But the Texans shouldn’t be laying more than a touchdown against anyone.
Colts (-2) over Steelers
It was worth wondering before Monday night if the offensive plan was the problem or the coaches felt they couldn’t run anything but a short passing game. We found out Monday. Ben Roethlisberger seems like he has hit a wall physically. I can’t bet on a rebound against a very good Colts team.
Bears (-7.5) over Jaguars
Who thought a few weeks ago that you’d even consider the Bears laying more than a touchdown against anyone? But Chicago has found some confidence, and the Jaguars are simply awful right now. I don’t buy that the players will care about getting the first pick and Trevor Lawrence, but there’s that hanging around the team now too. The Bears are still alive in the playoff race and this has to be an easy win.
Ravens (-10.5) over Giants
Maybe the Giants just ran out of gas. But the combination of them fading and the Ravens starting to come alive — and needing to keep winning to make the playoffs — means I’ll lay a big number.
Falcons (+10.5) over Chiefs
The Chiefs haven’t covered a spread in a long time. Given the positive attention they get for their 13-1 record, which is justified, you’d also think they’ve been great for betters but that hasn’t been the case. It’s tough to pick against the Chiefs but I’ll ride that streak.
Washington (-2) over Panthers
An odd line. The Panthers haven’t looked good in a long, long time. Washington wasn’t great against Seattle, but they aren’t as good as the Seahawks and still managed to make it close at the end. This is a huge game for Washington’s NFC East title hopes and I have to take them.
Chargers (-3.5) over Broncos
The Chargers have a little more rest to get healthy and look energized to finish well. The Broncos looked bad against the Bills and I’m not sure they have another win in them this season.
Rams (+1.5) over Seahawks
Put the Jets loss out of your mind. That was a look-ahead game for the Rams and didn’t matter that much to their playoff picture. They are also an inconsistent team. We knew that. The Rams were the much better team in the first meeting, and I think the loss to the Jets will motivate them even more in what likely amounts to an NFC West championship game.
Eagles (-2.5) over Cowboys
Jalen Hurts was great in last week’s loss. The Cardinals are just a better team than the Eagles. The Cowboys are a bad team, no matter if they beat the 49ers last week, and I think Philadelphia continues to play better around their intriguing rookie quarterback.
Titans (+3.5) over Packers
This is a fun game. The Titans should be able to run the ball, and they’re a very good team when Derrick Henry is rolling. Getting a touch over a field goal is enough for me in what should be a close game.
Bills (-7) over Patriots
The only thing I worry about is the Bills losing focus. They have the AFC East wrapped up. They aren’t going to catch the Chiefs for the bye in the AFC. New England is not good and Buffalo won’t have to score a lot to cover. The chance to put a big number on a team that has owned them and the AFC East for more than a decade might be their motivation.
Last week: 9-6-1
Season to date: 108-111-4