Drew Brees has not played a snap since halftime of the New Orleans Saints' Week 10 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Brees got hammered while in the pocket and exited the game, ultimately diagnosed with multiple fractured ribs and a punctured lung. Earlier this week, Brees was cleared to practice for the first time since that day, and he has a chance to play on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Ian Rapoport.
Brees obviously wants to play, and the Saints are eager for him to get back. They've kept the ship afloat without their longtime franchise QB, going 3-1 in the last month with utility man Taysom Hill under center. But they dropped a very winnable game against the flailing Philadelphia Eagles starting rookie QB Jalen Hurts this past Sunday. Hill can usually get the job done thanks to his versatility and Sean Payton's creative play-calling, but losing to the Eagles does not bode well for the team's chances against Patrick Mahomes and Co.
Thus, the sense of urgency in regards to Brees' return has increased. The Saints are 10-3 and have a two-game lead in the NFC South; barring a complete collapse, they'll be a top-three seed in the playoffs. But what they probably have their eye on is the top seed. This year, only the No. 1 seed in each conference will receive a first-round bye, making it even more of an advantage than normal. It's the only reason the Saints would even think about accelerating Brees' timeline for an inter-conference game.
But they should not do that. New Orleans should give Brees another week and make sure he is absolutely, positively 100 percent before taking a live snap. Because even if they win against the Chiefs on Sunday, they are not guaranteed the top seed. Far from it, actually. Because the Green Bay Packers are also 10-3, and those same Packers beat the Saints earlier this season, meaning Green Bay would win any tiebreaker between the two should their records be the same come the end of the year.
In essence, the Saints are considering throwing Brees on the field with less than a week of practice time after his rehab just for a chance at the top seed. And a fairly slim one at that. The Packers play the Panthers this week (easy win), the Titans next week (a likely win but not a sure thing) and the Bears in Week 17 (tough division opponent). New Orleans has the Chiefs on Sunday, followed by the Vikings and Panthers as their final two games of the 2020 season. New Orleans undeniably has the tougher slate and it'll take a lot of breaks to have a shot at the top seed.
The absolute best-case scenario for the Saints in bringing Brees this week is that they win on Sunday and have to hope the Packers drop one of their last three games. The worst-case is that Brees gets hurt again and their championship hopes rest on the shoulders of Hill. While Sean Payton has all the faith in the world in Hill, his 28-of-38 for 291 yards, two TD, one INT statline against an atrocious Eagles secondary suggests even Payton can only do so much to cover for Hill's flaws.
On the flip side, if the Saints rest their Hall of Fame QB this week, the worst thing that could happen is they get blown out by Kansas City and are still sitting pretty at 10-4 with two relatively easy games left on the docket and a healthy Brees ready to provide reinforcements. Losing the bye is tough, but losing Brees would be much worse.
And who knows? Maybe Hill can pull something out of his hat and the Kansas City game goes down to the wire. Patience is a virtue, and the payoff for bringing Brees back pales in comparison to the potential cost. The man is 40-years-old. Give Brees as much time as possible to get right, then unleash him when the games really matter.