Aaron Rodgers' effect on Saints

Two immediate reactions came to mind from a New Orleans Saints perspective after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a fractured collarbone on Monday night:

  • It could help the Saints’ chances of earning a top-two seed in the NFC.

  • It was the latest reminder of how important it is for the Saints to keep quarterback Drew Brees healthy.

Not that the Saints needed that reminder. They’re fully aware of how vital Brees is to their success. As offensive tackle Zach Strief said last week, “He’s the focal point of our entire team.”

The Saints’ pass protection has been a huge point of emphasis in recent weeks. It hasn’t been awful this season, but it has been far more inconsistent than in recent years -- especially up the middle. Brees has been sacked 20 times through eight games, and he just absorbed a handful of scary shots in this past Sunday’s 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.

The Saints need to make Brees’ security detail their top priority down the stretch -- especially with games against physical defenses such as San Francisco and Seattle still to come.

As long as Brees is on the field, the Saints (6-2) have a strong chance to contend for a No. 1 or No. 2 playoff seed. With Green Bay’s loss on Monday, the Saints now are temporarily alone in second place in the NFC race.