Coming off an NFC paradigm-shifting win over the Los Angeles Rams last week, the New Orleans Saints' trip to Cincinnati could have resulted in a letdown.
Michael Thomas hauled in two Brees touchdown passes, while Alvin Kamara scampered in for a pair on the ground. The Saints accounted for 509 total yards of offense and once again looked every bit like the best team in football.
New Orleans put up 28 second-quarter points and kept the Bengals on pace for one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history. The Bengals are on pace to allow the most yards ever by a significant margin, breaking a record owned by New Orleans.
Drew Brees Running Away with NFL MVP
If last week's virtuoso performance against the Rams didn't sell you, perhaps Brees' near-perfect outing against the Bengals will.
Brees completed 22 of 25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 150.4, while adding a leap over the Bengals defensive line for a one-yard rushing score. He's on pace to shatter the all-time completion percentage mark he set a year ago and has also thrown just one pick in 304 attempts this season.
The Saints' rushing attack, led by Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, had some wondering whether Brees had entered into a game manager stage of his career in 2017. His attempts and yardage took a major nosedive while New Orleans pounded the ground. While the per-pass numbers remained on par with his previous heights, it was fair to wonder whether the rushing game masked an oncoming decline.
All of those concerns have been assuaged and then some. Brees has been the best quarterback in football through the first 10 weeks, lethal in every sense of the word to put himself well ahead in the MVP race. Todd Gurley's touchdown numbers will probably keep him in the conversation for most of the season, but he's a running back. Voters are smart enough to recognize the best quarterback in football has an exponentially higher value than the best running back.
There's still plenty of season left, but Brees should be considered the runaway favorite for MVP.
Michael Thomas Is NFL's Best WR
Say it louder for the people in the back.
Thomas' transcendence should be getting almost as much credit as his quarterback's. The Saints have no other receivers. They brought Dez Bryant in off the scrap heap this week and immediately lost him to a torn Achilles. They'll probably try their luck next week with Brandon Marshall, who couldn't even stick with the Seahawks' shaky bunch.
Opposing teams know what the Saints are doing. Brees is finding Thomas or one of his running backs. Thomas' first touchdown was a perfect example. The Saints did nothing to hide the ball was coming Thomas' way; his route and Brees' throw were just so precise the Bengals didn't have a chance.
Thomas has caught 78 passes on 87 targets this season, good for 89.7 percent. To contrast, Antonio Brown has caught 57 balls on 96 targets. It's taken Adam Thielen 103 targets to match Thomas' 78 catches.
It may have taken pulling the Joe Horn cellphone celebration out of his hat to get national headlines, but Thomas has been the best receiver in football all season.
Bengals Offense Can't Atone for Terrible D Without A.J. Green
Truth be told, the Bengals could have had five A.J. Greens on offense and not come close to winning this game. Their defense is historically abysmal, and it's a modern miracle they're 5-4 despite being outscored by 53 points this season. This is the first time since the AFL-NFL merger a team has allowed 500-plus yards in three straight games.
That said, the offense looked just as incompetent in its first game with Green out of the lineup. Andy Dalton amounted just 153 yards through the air, taking four sacks and tossing a pair of interceptions. Joe Mixon had 85 yards on 13 touches but was taken out of the game once the Bengals fell behind big.
Cincinnati managed to hold the ball for just 20:14, allowing the onus to fall even more on its flailing defense.
This was one of the five worst performances an NFL team has put together all year.
The Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday. The Bengals travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens.