GOOD, BAD AND UGLY

Saints vs Redskins: Observations as Brees sets all-time passing yardage mark

Drew Brees is the king of NFL passers. Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Monday Night Football has given us lots of great moments over the years. Tonight’s 43-19 Saints win over the Redskins gave us a moment we may not see for quite a while. The Saints are now 4-1 and in control of the NFC South. Here’s a glimpse of what I saw:

The Good

-Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s all time passing yards record in spectacular fashion. Only needing 30-something yards, Brees hit rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith for a 62 yard touchdown pass and the celebration began.

-Mark Ingram being back for the Saints paid off on their first possession. He caught a 27-yard screen pass, then scored on a two yard run the next play as they took a 7-0 lead. The Saints are glad he’s back. He added a second touchdown with just less than four minutes left before halftime.

-The Saints were up 43-19 with a little more than two minutes left. Ingram ran for a first down and slid to keep the clock running down to the two minute warning. Brees needed one more touchdown pass to reach the 500 mark for his career. Instead, they took him out for a standing ovation and knelt out the clock. Sportsmanship still exists.

The Bad

-Saints’ receiver Cameron Meredith fumbled and the Skins recovered with a minute and a half left before halftime. Sure they were up 26-6 at the time, but giving up the ball at that moment, then a touchdown on the ensuing drive to make it 26-13 going into the half could have been worse had the Saints not gotten the second half kickoff.

-The run game didn’t pan out as expected because this was another game averaging less than four yards per carry. This team is operating on all cylinders when the run game is averaging north of four yards per carry.

The Ugly

-Saints All-Pro corner Marshon Lattimore left the game early on and was placed in concussion protocol and missed the rest of the game. It’s unsure if Lattimore will be cleared to play any time soon. This means more to their defense since the depth at that position is lacking severely.

-Brees was sacked twice in this game. The first drew a roughing the passer penalty on Ryan Kerrigan. It was a routine sack. Nothing looked malicious about it. But the enforcement of the body weight rule called for a flag on the play. Again, this is stupid and needs to be changed.

Those of you that follow my writing of these observation pieces will have noticed I cut one off of each the Bad and the Ugly. Well, when you see a game in which a future Hall of Famer breaks an all time record in prime time and the score wasn’t indicative of how the game turned out, you too wouldn’t have many bad things to say. This game was all about Brees. He torched the Skins defense, which was one of the top units in the league so far this year. Hats off to Brees. Not only what he managed to accomplish on the field, but what he’s meant to the city of New Orleans off the field as well.

 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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