The New Orleans Saints are next in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Jacob in Atlanta writes: Do you think that the "Madden Curse" has anything to do with Drew Brees' recent struggles. I just thought I should ask because no one has really mentioned it yet and I would like to hear your opinion.
Pat Yasinskas: I’m not a big believer in that type of thing and it’s not like Brees has gotten seriously injured or in trouble like some of the previous guys on the cover of the video game. But it is true he’s not playing nearly as well as last year, but I think there are other factors at work (like injuries to his running backs and struggles on the offensive line) that have more to do with that than any curse.
Graham in New Orleans writes: I believe Brees' knee injury is much worse than Sean Payton is letting on. And that is why his deep balls are off. Also, why is every analyst saying the Saints aren't great? Our 2 starting running backs, 2 starting cornerbacks, our outside linebacker, as well as a slew of others have been out with injury. I guess it is just easier to say they're bad.
Pat Yasinskas: If Brees’ knee injury truly was serious, the Saints wouldn’t be throwing him out there every week. He is a very valuable piece of property and it doesn’t make much sense to play him if there’s a serious knee injury. As far as the analysts, I can’t speak for everyone. But my take on the Saints right now is they’re not great because they haven’t played great. But I’m not ready to call them bad either. They’re loaded with talent and, if some of the injured guys come back, this team could get back to being great in a hurry.
Chuck in New Orleans writes: A while back you put one of my questions in the mailbag. It was about the possibility that the Saints were struggling physically and mentally because they simply played more games than anyone last year. Ben Roethlisberger made the following comments this week: "A lot of the hard part about it is your off-time is so short," he said. "You play longer than anyone else (the previous year) and the time to heal and rest or get your body right (is reduced).’’ Interesting!
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I think that’s a pretty honest and accurate answer. The Saints were playing for a month longer than most teams last season, and every game takes a physical toll. Payton tried to compensate for that by starting the offseason program a little later. But there’s no doubt this is an issue for any team that plays deep into the postseason. The NFL operates on a clock that pretty much goes year round, and winning the Super Bowl probably put the Saints in a different time zone for much of the offseason.
Daniel in New Orleans writes: Why is Jahri Evans on your Pro Bowl list? He's not even playing close to a Pro Bowl level. Brees definitely hasn't been great either, but he's closer to the list than Evans who has frequently been beat, shown poor technique and been penalized.
Pat Yasinskas: True, Evans is not having a great year, especially when you compare it to the standard he set last year. But he’s a “name’’ player and a lot of coaches and players around the league will tell you he’s the most talented guard in the game. Sometimes, reputation alone is enough to get someone into the Pro Bowl.