NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints 2019 season has been filled with many surprises through 8 games. Teddy Bridgewater showing he knows how to strut on and off the field might be my favorite, but the most surprising and important development during the Saints 7-1 start to 2019 is Michael Thomas becoming the team's most valuable player.

Thomas has been incredible in New Orleans and was rewarded with a $100 million dollar contract. He has caught more passes than any receiver in NFL history his first 3 years and entertained us with cellphone celebrations after scores. 

There was however a belief by me (and probably a lot of you) that sure "Michael Thomas was outstanding" and "one of the best receivers in football," but a lot of his success was due to the fact he had a future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees throwing him the ball.

How much was Drew Brees a factor in Thomas record setting start to his career? It was always difficult to untangle because Brees was always throwing him passes. Then Brees got hurt Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams and the theory went the Saints would struggle to score and Michael Thomas would struggle to keep up his record receiving pace.

No. And no.

Michael Thomas was still setting records with Teddy Bridgewater throwing him the ball. But even more remarkable was Thomas remained unstoppable even when the Saints went into Chicago against the a top 5 Bears defense without Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook.

You can't guard Mike no matter who is throwing to him and you can't guard Mike even when he's the only credible receiving threat the Saints have on the active roster. 

That last sentence reads like a football themed Doctor Seuss book.

Michael Thomas becoming the Saints most valuable player didn't just happen all of a sudden in 2019. It started late last year, but circumstances made it hard to notice. 

In the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles Thomas caught 12 passes for 171 yards and a score. Drew Brees under heavy pressure from a relentless Philadelphia pass rush seemingly just decided on nearly every play, "Where's Michael? There? Here's the ball Mike, go be spectacular."

An he was. Over and over.

The NFC Championship will be remembered for the 'No Call,' but the throw that Brees missed on the play before to Thomas on a Rams blitz where if Brees is accurate Thomas walks into the end zone will likely haunt my dreams forever.

While Thomas has ascended to be the Saints 2019 MVP, there might be a path where he could be the first ever wide receiver to be NFL MVP. Granted, it's a long shot Thomas wins NFL MVP because the award is mostly a quarterback award that occasionally goes to a running back or great defensive player.

So how could Michael Thomas win the 2019 NFL MVP? He'd need to start by breaking the NFL record for receptions in a single season. The good news is he's currently on pace for 145 catches, which would top Marvin Harrison's 143 in 2002. That wouldn't be enough though. 

The Saints would probably have to be 14-2 and have the best record football and they'd have to have the best record in the NFC by 2-3 games. If the Packers or Seahawks go 12-4 or 13-3 Aaron Rogers or Russell Wilson will win the award because sportswriters love to hand out MVP awards to any quarterbacks not named Drew Brees.

Even if the Saints go 14-2 and are 3 wins better than any NFC team and Michael Thomas breaks the NFL record for catches in a season he'd still need more to get the MVP award.

What more could he do?

Destroy the San Francisco 49ers in a battle for top team in the NFC on December 8th. Then, on a Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts, throw up a 13 grab 220yard Picasso performance as the Saints clinch the #1 seed in the NFC with 2 weeks left to play in the regular season.

All of that probably won't get Michael Thomas the NFL MVP, but the fact I'm writing a column about a Saints player not named Drew Brees being NFL MVP in 2019 is just as surprising as how the Saints have gone 7-1. 

Saints Fans Mood and Meditation Music

Band of Horses -- The Funeral 

It's time to bury 2 things this week: The Atlanta Falcons season and LSU's 8 years of angst and misery against the University of Alabama.

"At every occasion I'm ready for the funeral

At every occasion one brilliant day funeral" 

This is the week we celebrate the burial of one football mortal enemy and bury the demons caused by another.

The Games

Last Week: 3-2

Season: 24-15-1

LSU (+6.5) at Alabama

If not now, when? If not this team, who? In 4 years Ed Orgeron has assembled a team that's equal to the football Death Star Nick Saban has built in Tuscaloosa. For the first time in 8 years as an LSU fan I don't need to convince myself the Tiger quarterback can pull some once in a lifetime magical performance out of a hat, all I ask is for is Joe Burrow to be Joe Burrow.

Can we take a minute to celebrate Ed Orgeron? The guy who was a unique hire four years ago has built the LSU team we wanted him to the day he was made full time coach. He changed the offense and recruited brilliantly. LSU football being led by a Cajun in his dream job will never not be fantastic to me. So I salute you Coach O, you are doing it.

LSU finally has an offense more than capable of going blow for blow with the Crimson Tide. The biggest question in every LSU-Bama game is always, "Can LSU's offensive line block Alabama?" More than offensive play calling or even quarterback, that's been the main reason LSU has mostly been awful vs. Nick Saban since 2012. The Tigers can't block the Tide and then are either quickly or slowly smothered to death.

LSU faced two top 15 defenses in Florida and Auburn and the offensive line held up. Those games were at home but in the last 50 years the Tigers are better against the Tide in Alabama anyway.

Maybe I'm Charlie Brown and my belief in LSU against Alabama is Lucy with the football, but life is more fun if we close our eyes and dream the dream we want and not the nightmare we fear. Once more into the breech, believing the impossible dream.

LSU 31-27

New Orleans (-12.5) vs Atlanta

The Falcons in an attempt to save their dying season are having the wide receiver coach coach defensive backs. Maybe that will help their defense allow less than 31.5 points? If the Titanic had only rearranged those deck chairs y'all.

Matt Ryan is likely to start ,and if he's not completely healthy, the Saints may sack him 76 times. Saints-Falcons games can get weird but that seems much more likely when Saints travel to Atlanta for a Thanksgiving Day clash. This Sunday feels like the Saints do awful awful things to Atlanta the way Uncle Billy Sherman did way back in the 1860a. Sean Payton conjuring up a certain score might blow the roof off the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Saints 28-3

Buffalo (+2.5) at Cleveland

Vegas thinks so highly of the 6-2 Bills they are a 2.5 point underdog against the 2-6 Cleveland. How bad is Baker Mayfield? Even Odell Beckham Jr could make end stage Eli Manning look average most weeks.

Bills 20-17  

Green Bay (-5.5) vs Carolina

It doesn't matter who loses because either result is a winner for the Saints. 

Packers 24-13

San Francisco (-6) vs Seattle

The 49ers are good. It pains me to type that because I hate them.

49ers 28-21

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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.

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