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What to watch for in Colts-Saints on 'MNF'

Though the Saints are coming off a defeat to the 49ers in a game-of-the-year candidate, all is reasonably well for coach Sean Payton's bunch.

It's a stark contrast to coach Frank Reich's Colts, who hobble into the Superdome on a three-game slide that has them a defeat away from losing their glimmer of hope at a return to the postseason.

On the agenda in NOLA is a Super Bowl XLIV rematch, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas zeroing in on NFL landmarks held by former Colts, the Saints vying for top seeds and first-round byes and Jacoby Brissett, Darius Leonard and the rest of the Colts hoping to put a stop to the struggles that have clouded their last six weeks.

In the second-to-last Monday Night Football offering of the season, Brissett and the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) are looking for an upset against Brees and the host New Orleans Saints (10-3) in a showdown that commences at 8:20 p.m. ET on ESPN.

These franchises most famously faced off in Super Bowl XLIV, with Brees and the Saints emerging from their first and only trip to a championship game with their first and only Lombardi Trophy.

The Saints have won the last three against the Colts, including the Super Bowl triumph.

For the Colts to cling to any semblance of postseason hope, they must win on Monday, as a loss will eliminate them from postseason contention. New Orleans, meanwhile, has already clinched the NFC South, but must keep pace with NFC heavyweights San Francisco, Seattle and Green Bay in its quest for a top-two seed and a first-round bye.

Here's four things to watch for on Monday night:

Will Drew Brees have another record-breaking Monday?

With a Peyton Manning video cued up and a Monday night audience tuned in, Drew Brees became the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards just a season ago, turning in an exceptional performance of 363 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout of the Redskins.

An encore performance and celebration might well be in store.

Walking into the Superdome on Monday, Brees will carry with him 537 touchdown passes. Entering Week 15, Brees was second all-time in career touchdown passes, trailing only Manning at 539, but slipped to third. Tom Brady entered Sunday's matchup with the Bengals at 536 TD passes for his career and upped it to 538, moving ahead of Brees, but still trailing Manning for now and leaving the pomp and circumstance of breaking the record for the taking.

Brees' decorated career is dotted with a number of dazzling Monday nights, as he's turned in 11 "MNF" performances with three-plus passing touchdowns, which trails only Brett Favre's 13.

Aiding the prognosis for a big night for Brees is that he's facing a Colts defense that's allowed the most passing yards per game (300.7) since Week 12, per NFL Research.

Thus, another stellar Monday night might have Brees and New Orleans celebrating another major NFL record.

Michael Thomas is hauling in a huge season

Michael Thomas landed the mega-deal he was striving for ahead of the season and he's continually proven to be worth every bit of it.

The only wideout of the year to garner a semblance of MVP buzz, Thomas boasts a league-leading 121 catches and is also tops with 1,424 yards receiving and 109.5 yards per game. In his fourth season, the two-time Pro Bowler has already cinched up his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and third straight 100-catch campaign.

As he faces the Colts, he also continues to track down former Colts great Marvin Harrison's single-season record for catches of 143 set in 2002. Per NFL Research, Harrison needs to average 7.7 catches in each of his last three games to surpass Harrison and he's coming into Monday averaging 9.3.

When it comes to production, Thomas has been a machine operating on a pace never seen before as his 121 catches are the most in league history through 13 games, having bettered Harrison's 2002 mark of 118.

Thomas is coming off an 11-catch, 134-yard day against the 49ers that was his sixth 100-yard game over his last seven and the seventh double-digit-catch outing of his incredible season. The seven games with double-digit grabs are an NFL record that Thomas now shares with Andre Johnson and Wes Welker and one he can have all to himself on this Monday night.

Racking up receptions and records has become commonplace with Thomas, but no less impressive and he returns his standard-setting ways to Monday night against the Colts with more history at his fingertips.

Jacoby Brissett, Colts struggling through season

During the offseason, the Colts were everybody's darling, predicted to do great things after surprising success in 2018.

Then Andrew Luck stunned the world with his retirement.

Nevermind a potential Hall of Fame career coming to a close so prematurely, Jacoby Brissett rallied the troops and the AFC South seemed to be the Colts for the taking once more as they were off to a 5-2 start.

Alas, injuries took their toll in the Colts' life after Luck, whether they were to Brissett or Darius Leonard or T.Y. Hilton or Marlon Mack or on and on.

With a loss on Monday, the Colts will be eliminated from any chance at the playoffs, so this is very much their last stand.

Though silver linings are hard to find in the NFL, this has been a season in which Brissett and Co. have shown their fortitude and fought the good fight. Unfortunately, it's seen them lose three in a row and five of their last six.

If fortunes can be turned or at least hope prolonged, Brissett must reverse his downward trends during a stretch that's seen him go 1-4 as a starter with 181 yards per game and four touchdowns to three interceptions. Prior to that, during the 5-2 start, he had 14 touchdowns and three picks with 227 yards per game.

A healthy contribution from a healthy Mack will also be needed. Back from a hand injury, Mack has 900 yards rushing on the year and is seeking to become the second Colts 1,000-yard rusher this decade, the first since Frank Gore in 2016 and just the ninth Colt overall.

For an upset to be had and hope to remain, the Colts will need to bring their best -- which was on display months ago but has gone by the wayside in recent weeks. For Brissett's bunch, Monday will stand as the night in which they begin limping into the offseason or find a way to keep the slimmest of aspirations alive.

Can Alvin Kamara reverse course against Darius Leonard and Co.?

Scoring points hasn't really been a troublesome aspect for the Saints, the fifth-ranked scoring offense heading into Week 15.

It's a perhaps surprising stat considering Alvin Kamara is having a very un-Alvin Kamara-like season.

The dual threat hasn't tallied a 100-yard rushing (or receiving) effort in 11 games this season (he's missed two because of injury) and has found the end zone in just one game (he scored twice in a Week 3 win over the Seahawks).

Perhaps most troublesome as every game's importance rises at this point of the year is that Kamara's production is on a slide with his scrimmage yards having decreased in each of the last three weeks, per NFL Research.

Evidence of just how dynamic and versatile Kamara is comes with him needing just three receiving yards on Monday to become the fourth player in league history to rush for 2,000-plus yards and garner 2000-plus receiving yards over his first three NFL seasons. The previous three are current Panthers all-everything all-star Christian McCaffrey, Herschel Walker and Roger Craig.

The Colts defense (eighth against the run, but 22nd versus the pass) is led by an equally versatile talent in Darius Leonard and as a whole are eighth-best against running backs, holding them to an average of 116.8 yards per game. Leonard, per Pro Football Focus, has allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating in coverage (79.5) among linebackers and is on his way to a second brilliant season following his rookie-of-the-year campaign.

Despite missing three games, Leonard leads the Colts with 92 tackles, four interceptions, six passes defended and two forced fumbles, and is second with five sacks. From sideline to sideline on every level, Leonard is shining even as the Colts are slumping.

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