There are no sure things in the NFL, no set-in-stone absolutes which can be counted on to materialize game after game, season after season.
When the New Orleans Saints (9-3) play Carolina (9-3) in Sunday night’s nationally televised showdown, with the winner climbing into first place in the NFC South Division standings and keeping hold on the second-best record in the conference, it’ll be the 18th time that Brees has led the Saints onto the field in such a situation since 2006.
Fourteen of the previous 17 times, the Saints have won, including 10 straight. And in just about all of them, Brees has been video-game good.
In the 17 games Brees has completed 446 of 626 passes (71.2 percent) for 5,339 yards and 46 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions. No genius is required to understand that Brees, who stands 287 yards shy of becoming the fifth player in league history with 50,000 career passing yards, has been money at home in the Dome.
“I have a lot of confidence in our plan and our guys,” Brees said. “They’re always big games, they’re always very meaningful.
“(But) my level of preparation is the same each and every week, regardless of where playing or who we’re playing or what’s at stake. I can’t point to anything specific other than I have a routine and I always stick with it.”
Whatever is the routine, Brees might be wise to try to bottle and sell it.
Just in the two prime time home games this season, he has completed 64 of 80 passes (80 percent) for 805 yards and eight touchdowns, with no interceptions, as the Saints routed Miami (38-17) and Dallas (49-17).
The last time the Saints lost a home game in prime time? Dec. 19, 2009, when Brees completed 29 of 45 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, in a 24-17 loss to Dallas.
Since, during the 10-game winning streak, New Orleans has won by an average score of 37-15 and Brees has completed 279 of 380 passes (73.4 percent) for 3,293 yards and 33 touchdowns, with four interceptions.
But Carolina figures to present one of the more formidable challenges defensively. The Panthers allow a league-low 13.1 points per game and just 289.8 yards. The Saints, who score 26 points per game, pass for 302.8 yards per game.
“They’re excellent,” Brees said. “There’s not a defense that’s playing better than these guys. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They don’t have a weak link.
“As you watch each and every game you see a defined game plan, you see great execution, you see a lot of discipline.”
Much the same has been said of the Saints' offense over the years, especially when it has been at home at night. Even when the stakes have been as high as they will be Sunday, New Orleans has risen to the challenge.
“It is playing an important game with regards to the division,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “It’s a Sunday night game at home. Those are things that you get excited about.
“I think at this point in the year playing in a division race like we are, I think both teams will be ready and excited. I don’t think it’s a game where you have to worry about whether teams are going to be fired up to play. I think there is a lot at stake and both teams understand that.”
More than most, one player understands and almost always plays to the magnitude of the occasion.
“We know the type of atmosphere that Sunday night football creates in the Dome with our fans,” Brees said. “A night game and everything that’s at stake – we know it’s going to be an electric atmosphere.
“We’ve still got to come with our A game, we’ve still got to play well. It’s encouraging to know that we’ve been in this situation many times, we know how to handle it, focusing on the process and the week of preparation and the ability to eliminate distractions. We can’t make this game any bigger than it already is. We just need to be ready and go out and play.”
For the Saints, that mostly means they just need to follow Brees’ lead.