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Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints hope to pick up where they left off before bye

"Hopefully we'll continue to build on what we've done up to this point"

Check out photos of the on-field action between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals in Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season.

Drew Brees did the best thing he could do to remain in the rhythm he established after missing five games due to thumb surgery and rehabilitation, and returning to complete 79 percent of his passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-9, pre-bye week victory.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback worked.

"Spent last week here, just continuing to work out, continuing to rehab," he said. "Just trying to get healthier and healthier. Spent time throwing to some of the guys that were on the mend as well. Hopefully, we'll have everybody back this week and continue to build on what we've done up to this point."

Possible returns of several offensive threats – running back Alvin Kamara, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Tre'Quan Smith – could make the Saints (7-1, with a six-game winning streak and a two-game lead over Carolina in the NFC South Division) more potent in the second half.

Kamara (knee/ankle) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, while Cook (ankle) and Smith (ankle) practiced full. Kamara and Cook were inactive the last two games before the bye, and Smith was inactive for the last three.

With an NFC South game on deck Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans plays Atlanta (1-7) in a noon kickoff, the first of four consecutive divisional games – it's a good time for the Saints to be at their healthiest.

"Divisional games are the most important games," Brees said. "They're really worth two (games), when it comes down to it. They're always battles, regardless of record, regardless of standing. We know what these games mean, we know how physical these games are, we know how tough they are. And so, we need to bring our best football, especially this week."

Thus, there's no time to be overlooking the Falcons, who have lost six straight. Atlanta has three losses by a touchdown or less, including two losses by a field goal or less.

"I think they're a much better team than 1-7," Brees said. "Absolutely. They've got some very good players, they have some very explosive players. They're not too far from where they were a couple of years ago, when they were going to the Super Bowl or going to the playoffs. They're extremely dangerous.

"We know what they're capable of, and we also know it's a divisional game. There's a rivalry there because they're in the division and because they're a team that we have a lot of respect for and we know what they can do."

Brees said he also knows what the Saints need to do offensively in order to be more potent in the final eight games.

"Overall efficiency," he said. "We can start better. We can continue to get better at third down sustaining drives, which is going to result in more points, which is going to be better red zone efficiency.

"All those little things that at the end of the year, when you look at the playoff teams, when you look at the teams that are playing for something, they're up at the top in all these categories. We need to continue to strive to do that."

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