METAIRIE, La. – On Sunday night, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees could become the fifth player in NFL history to throw for 50,000 yards. He needs just 287 yards, although that's not a given against the stingy Carolina Panthers defense. But Brees will certainly get there within a week or two.
Brees will probably have to wait until next season, though, to pass John Elway for fourth place on the all-time passing yardage list (51,475). And unless he continues his string of 5,100-yard seasons, Brees might have to wait until 2016 to pass Dan Marino for third place (61, 361).
It’s not impossible to imagine Brees one day passing No. 1 Brett Favre (71,838) and No. 2 Peyton Manning (63,612 and counting). Brees would need to stay healthy and productive for at least another five seasons (through age 39) – averaging more than 4,000 yards per season.
Brees’ time: Brees would get there a lot quicker if he could play all his games at home inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in prime time. Brees’ numbers in home night games have been jaw-dropping over the years. Dating back to 2009, the Saints have won 12 straight night home games, including the playoffs, with Brees throwing for 39 touchdowns and only four interceptions and averaging 330 passing yards per game.
Brees said his preparation is no different than for any other game. But he said the team does feed off the atmosphere inside the Dome during those prime-time night games – which are almost always big games.
“We know the type of atmosphere that 'Sunday Night Football' creates in the Dome with our fans, a night game and everything that’s at stake [against the Panthers] and all of that,” Brees said of the battle between the NFC South co-leaders, who are both 9-3. “So we know it’s going to be an electric atmosphere. But we still have to come with our 'A' game. We’ve still got to play well.
“Yeah, it’s encouraging to know that we’ve been in the situation many times. We know how to handle it, know how to focus in on the process and the week of preparation and the ability to eliminate distractions and everything else. You can’t make this game any bigger than it already is, so we just need to be ready and go out and play.”
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Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan wrote about something a few of us in the media have picked up on over the last couple days – the Saints aren’t shying away from the magnitude of Sunday night’s game. Although they usually make a point to claim that every game is equally important, players and coach Sean Payton have openly described this one as a “big game” several times. Perhaps it’s another subtle way to make sure the team avoids a letdown after their blowout loss in their last “big game,” Monday night's 34-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. But players have insisted all week that they won’t have any problems bouncing back.
Saints running back Mark Ingram, a proud and passionate former Alabama star, was forced to dress in Auburn gear on Thursday after losing a bet with linebacker Will Herring. Teammates obviously got a kick out of Ingram’s suffering, posting pictures and suggested captions on social media. Ingram, meanwhile, complained that he felt like he was “itching” the whole time he was in the Auburn gear.
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer tweeted out a progress report on his rehab from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last month. Wrote Greer: “Two weeks ago, I could not walk. With #God'sGrace and #hardwork, I am now Stepping Up! Thank u so much for ur love”
The Saints are a popular pick this week among ESPN’s panel of NFL analysts.