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Forecast: Expect Sean Payton to go into his bag of tricks without his best player

Sean Payton loves a challenge, and while I'm sure he'd rather have Michael Thomas available, he'll never shy away from that challenge.

NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton has had quite the offseason. He caught and defeated the 'Rona, he also helped mend a divided locker room after Drew Brees went on something called Yahoo Finance and made the entire team mad at him. Sean even had time to do Cameo videos for charity, including one for my little podcast, The Saints Happy Hour, where we paid Sean to insult us. He gave an Academy Award winning performance there y'all. He was as committed to insulting us as he is to drawing up record breaking fun passes for Drew.

2020 just got a little crazier for Sean Payton because now he is going to have to design an offense that wins without Michael Thomas for a while.

We know he's up to it. Don't believe me? Ask Drew Brees' thumb and Alvin Kamara's knee how Sean does designing offenses without star players? Sean Payton is familiar with building a game plan without his best offensive weapon, but he hasn't had to design an offense lacking his best player since Drew Brees missed a game in 2015 and Luke McCown nearly guided the Saints to an upset win over the eventual NFC Champion Carolina Panthers.

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Seeing what Payton has in mind on offense starting in Las Vegas will be fascinating because Michael Thomas is the Saints best player now and how the Saints function without him will be interesting. Remember, Michael Thomas' production didn't dip at all when Teddy Bridgewater was starting at quarterback. Thomas just kept on being a force of nature on his way to breaking the NFL record for receptions in a season.

So what will a Saints offense without Michael Thomas look like? The only time Sean Payton hasn't had Thomas at his disposal the Saints lost to Tampa Bay 16-11 in 2016, but that's like 25,000 years ago and involved Tim Hightower as Saints leading rusher and Brandin Cooks as their leading receiver. It might have been in black and white on our televisions it was so long ago.

Part of me wants Payton to feature Taysom Hill trick plays and Deonte Harris gadget fun because it'd be hysterical seeing fantasy experts and NFL media go berserk over Payton getting weird. Sean if you cook up some triple reverse where Deonte throws to Taysom, who then throws to Drew, I'll donate $50 bucks to charity.


Payton getting weird is always a possibility but the likely scenario is the Saints lean on the guy they just paid $15 million to; It's Alvin Kamara's time now. The Raiders allowed the Panthers to rush for 128 yards and score 30 points, so expect a heavy dose of Kamara and Latavius Murray. The Saints deep and talented roster is already being put to the test. Sean Payton loves a challenge and now he's got one just a week into the 2020 season.

Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: Leaving Las Vegas --Sheryl Crow The Pandemic of 2020 is horrible for a thousand reasons and one of them is this week Who Dat Nation could've descended on Las Vegas for a weekend of fun in Sin City capped off with a Monday night football game against the Raiders if not for stupid COVID-19. I was planning to go and it was going to be amazing. The Raiders new stadium looks like something a James Bond villain would build in the Amazon rain forest as his hideaway or maybe a Roomba? Tough to know for sure. What would've been better than gambling, Saints Football, and Vegas all rolled together? Besides New Orleans, there's not a more fun destination to go watch your team play than Vegas. The worst part is the Saints won't be going back to Vegas until 2028! My god we might be living in Mad Max type hellscape by then. I try not to think about the fun this weekend was going to be because 2020 is terrible enough as it is.

The Games Last Week: 2-3 Season: 2-3

New Orleans (-6) at Las Vegas: The Raiders are in year 3 of 'Jon Gruden 2.0' and are we sure they know what they are doing? They traded away Khalil Mack, drafted the wrong Clemson defensive lineman, and traded away a running back they drafted in third round this year. Remember when Gruden thought adding Antonio Brown was a good idea? That was a thing the Raiders tried to do.

As my podcast co-host Andrew Juge said to me this week, "The only person besides Sean Payton able to make Teddy Bridgewater look very good is Jon Gruden, because clearly he's fine showing up with a Conference USA quality defense." The Raiders let Carolina gain 388 yards of offense last Sunday.

On offense Vegas has a really great running back in Josh Jacobs but I get the sense Jon Gruden will breakup with Derek Carr the second he finds a quarterback he thinks might possibly be better. Drew Brees isn't going to be bad 2 weeks in a row and Emmanuel Sanders is going to prove the great addition we all knew he was in March.

Saints 27-17

Cincinnati (+5.5) at Cleveland: Baker Mayfield is terrible. This is my expert opinion. Bengals 21-14

Dallas (-4) at Atlanta: The Falcons are staring an 0-4 start square in the face and our dream of Dan Quinn coaching Atlanta forever may be ending soon. Cowboys 34-20 

Green Bay (-6) vs Detroit: Never forget kids, the Lions fired Jim Caldwell after 3 years and 2 playoff appearances to hire Bill Belichick understudy and angry plumber look-a-like Matt Patricia. Lions always gonna Lion Packers 34-21

New England (3.5) at Seattle: That Bill Belichick was the only coach interested in Cam Newton should warrant some sort of investigation. The Patriots upgraded at quarterback. I hate them.

Patriots 28-25

Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.