Saints primed for Super Bowl run

Drew Brees and the Saints open up play against the Packers in Green Bay on Thursday night. (REUTERS)

Drew Brees and the Saints open up play against the Packers in Green Bay on Thursday night. (REUTERS)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:38 PM ET

Playing the glory years of his NFL career in always festive New Orleans, Drew Brees has no doubt seen the odd hangover.

The football version is the most relevant to the Saints quarterback these days, of course, now that his teammaes can smell the start of the NFL season.

By Monday morning, the Saints and the Green Bay Packers will be well into implementing their game plans for Thursday’s sensational matchup to kick off the 2011 season at Lambeau Field.

Since the NFL moved the season opener to Thursdays a few years back and featured the defending champs, Super Bowl hangover has become yet another over-used buzzword in the NFL hype machine.

So is there anything to it?

“It’s fun to be called defending champions, but everyone tries to make it stressful,” Brees told reporters in New Orleans on Sunday. “So many of the questions we faced last year was ‘what have you done about the Super Bowl hangover and how do you defend against that?’

“In the end, I felt we handled it well.”

That, of course, is up for debate. After winning their opener at home, the Saints were ordinary for the first two months of the season, needing a big finish to make up for a 4-3 start. And in that home opener, the offence was barely firing in a 14-9 win over Minnesota.

By the time the playoffs began, the Saints were seen as a decent prospect to repeat, only to get upset 41-36 by Seattle in he opening round, a result that still doesn’t make sense.

It still doesn’t sit will with Brees, either. After a season in which he passed for 4,600 yards and 33 TDs, the Saints leader believed that a showdown meeting with the Packers would have taken place far earlier than the 2011 season opener.

“We knew all along the Packers were going to roll through the playoffs,” Brees said. “We had it in our (plans) that we had to go to Seattle and win, go to Chicago and win, and then we’ll see the Packers in the dome (for the NFC Championship game.)

“The Packers upheld their end of the bargain.”

The Saints are widely considered legitimate threats to return to the top of the NFC while the Packers are favoured to repeat as conference champions, especially since they are healthier than they were through their electrifying Super Bowl run.

Because they are defending champs and playing at what will be a crazed Lambeau Field, the Packers are three-point favourites in the opener. That’s foreign territory for the Saints, who were underdogs just three times in the past two regular seasons.

“We see ourselves as a great team and a contender, they seem themselves as a great team and a contender,” Brees said. “The fact is, it’s just one game. It just happens to be the first game of the season on a Thursday night and nationally televised and all that stuff.

“You just have to cut through that.”

Quick Kicks

Aaron Maybin’s bid to go down as one of the worst first-round picks in recent memory picked up some steam on Sunday when he was released by the Jets. Maybin, who was selected 11th overall by the Bills in 2009, was a bust in Buffalo and apparently recording 11/2 sacks in one game with the Jets wasn’t enough to impress coach Rex Ryan. Don’t be surprised if another team gives him another look, however ... A word to the wise for those expecting a shootout in Thursday’s opener. Since 1999, in Week 1 games with an over-under line of 44 or greater, he under has gone 41-20-1. The total for the Saints-Packers is 47 ... ... Trent Edwards, who started last season as Bills starter, couldn’t stick as a backup with the Raiders and was released. Reports out of Oakland said Edwards looked tentative and didn’t throw the ball downfield. Shocking ... How bad are the Panthers and the Bengals? No teams have done more in the pre-season to affect their Week 1 pointspread in negative ways. The Browns opened as three-point faves over Cincinnati but are now up to 61/2 while Arizona are the seven-point choice over Carolina after opening at three.

Practicem make perfect

Who knows if practice really does make perfect, but there has been much speculation leading into the 2011 season as to how the abbreviated training camp may affect play early on.

Given what quarterback Drew Brees did in the off-season, the Saints may be one of the teams best able to deal with it.

Brees arranged team workouts at Tulane University during the lockout, even picking up hotel costs for some of the young, unsigned players.

“We tried to simulate as best we could a normal offseason, albeit it wasn’t at our team facility and we had to do everything on our own,” Brees said on Sunday. “But the hope was that it would be able to put us into a situation where we felt like we still had an offseason.

“I’d like to think it helped us a lot. Especially for our younger players.”

 


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