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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Since the Saints are playing tonight, we'll start the team-by-team mailbags with them.
Neil in Richmond, VA, writes: You and lots of others I know have been pretty harsh on Sean Payton. I'm not sure I understand what the fuss is about. He's hardly perfect, but I can't imagine anyone arguing the Saints are worse than before he took charge. No, we aren't a Superbowl team yet, in spite of some optimist predictions, but we've hung on in an extremely tough division, leading me to believe that we are really better than the 2006 team (the NFC was so soft that year that we took #2 seed with 10-6. 10-6 might not even be good to make the playoffs this year). I approve of many of Payton's decisions that are supposedly too risky (the fact that we have a team that is prepared to convert 4th downs indisputably won the London game when our kicking game was in shambles). I'm not defending every decision he makes. His play calling doesn't always make me too happy. But over the long term, Payton seems like part of the solution and not part of the problem. Even though this season hasn't been ideal, I dare you to find a Saints fan who longs for the days before Payton, even if they do think this team can do more.
Pat Yasinskas: Wow, you're the first fan I've seen defending Payton in quite some time. You make a very good point about trying to find a fan who longs for the days before Payton. The Saints certainly are more competitive with him than they were through most of their previous history. Payton definitely has his strengths and weaknesses and he's not going anywhere anytime soon after signing a new five-year contract early this season. But I think next year will be critical for him. He has a lot of talent to work with and he can't afford to have an underachieving team again.
Lloyd in parts unknown writes: Do you think Kurt Warner deserves the MVP over Drew Brees because of the TEAM record? Here are my thoughts: I'm real tired of this BS about Warner deserves it because his team is winning. If the Saints were in that division they would own it too. Give me a break, THAT DIVISION HAS SPOTTED THE CARDINALS 6 WINS and as of right now, the Cardinals have only won 2 games outside of that 6-spot. LETS SAY THE CARDS FINISH 10-6. THAT MEANS THEY ONLY WENT 4 and 6 AGAINST THE REST OF THE LEAGUE. THAT'S PATHETIC. IF THEY GO 11-5, THAT MEANS THEY ONLY WENT 5 and 5 AGAINST EVERYONE ELSE. Yeah, Warner has really got them winning huh!!!! I'm not trying to say Brees is the MVP, I'm just tired of hearing the team record as being the main reason Warner deserves it over Brees. I mean really, when should an individual award be defined by what a team did?
Pat Yasinskas: All good points. But my personal opinion is the MVP award also should reflect what the team does. Your points on the Cardinals and their schedule have merit, but they have won their division. If the Saints win out and make the playoffs, I'd bump Brees ahead of Warner because I do think he's a much better quarterback.
Dinh Pham writes: Hey there Pat... i was looking at the remaining schedule... for the NFC South... and it looks like all teams could end up 10-6... of course the Saints have to win against the Bears and win out the season... and if thats the case... what would be the scenaro then... i know it comes to tie breakers within the division, and then conference... but after that... even then they can all end up 10-6... which team will get the division title, and what teams will get to go as the wild cards?
Pat Yasinskas: Since you and a lot of others are asking about various playoff scenarios, here's a link to the NFL's complete procedures on tiebreakers.
Shane in Dayton writes: Why is Lance Moore not on the list of recievers that you can vote for on NFL.com for the Pro Bowl?? I think he really deserves a shot, and I can't even vote for him!! What's up with that??
Pat Yasinskas: Glad you brought that up because it points out one of the quirks in Pro Bowl balloting. Moore wasn't on the ballot because he wasn't expected to be a starter early in the season. He certainly has produced like a guy who at least deserves some Pro Bowl votes. That couldn't happen in the fan part of the voting because of the NFL's system. Moore will get some write-in votes when the coaches and players do their voting, but I don't think that will be enough to get him a spot. That's unfortunate.
Damon in San Diego writes: Hey Pat, love the site and your column...die hard Saints Fan from New Orleans transferred to San Diego compliments of the Marine Corps. (MSGTofMarines) My question is; even if we win out at 10-6 what are your honest thoughts on my beloved boys in black and gold making the playoffs? thanks in advance and keep up the great work!
Pat Yasinskas: Win tonight against the Bears and we'll start talking about playoffs then.
Neil in Richmond, VA, writes: A couple times, you've talked about Pierre Thomas as average, and (if I've been reading you right) perhaps not the Saints long term solution for a RB to complement Bush. Has the game against Atlanta changed your mind any? Where you see a middle of the pack RB, I see a young guy who is getting better every month and can play 15 carry games when he needs to (and with the offense the Saints have now, why outside of injuries would we ever need one guy to pick up more than 15 carries?) With the youth of both, it seems to me like Bush and Thomas together is more than enough RB talent for years to come.
Pat Yasinskas: You were reading me right. But Thomas changed my opinion and probably the opinion of a lot of others on Sunday.