By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, center left, speaks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady after an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. The Buccaneers won 30-20. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, right, celebrates with running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, right, runs against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) signals at the line of scrimmage against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, center, is tackled between Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Devin White (45), Lavonte David (54) and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) works against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New Orleans Saints' Deonte Harris (11) returns a punt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Tom Brady's best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home - perhaps for good.
Brady and the Bucs' offense turned three Saints turnovers, including two interceptions of Brees, into touchdowns, and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20 in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs Sunday night.
Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after Brees was intercepted by linebacker Devin White in the middle of the fourth quarter, Brady drove the Bucs to the 1, from where he scored himself to all but ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game - his first in the NFC.
That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.
''We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,'' Brady said. ''We've got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron's playing incredible.''
Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.
The game may have been the last in the Superdome for the 42-year-old Brees, who is under contract for one more year but has not discussed any plans to play beyond this season, and has sometimes hinted at his impending retirement.
While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when Brees took the field for New Orleans' first offensive series.
If it was his last game, it won't be one he'll want to remember. The NFL's all-time leader in completions and yards passing was 19 of 34 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints - both losses - he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.
''Really just locking in and playing a lot better than we did the first two times we played them,'' he said. ''We had a bunch of turnovers last time. This time they turned it over and that's usually the story of football games.''
After Brees' third interception on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs were able to close out the game with Brady, in his first season with Tampa Bay after 20 with New England, taking a knee.
The Saints led 6-3 when Brees, while trying to flee pressure, underthrew Michael Thomas and was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting, who raced 36 yards along the sideline to the Saints 3. Brady hit Evans one play later to put the Buccaneers up 10-6.
The Saints answered, helped by a drive-extending third-down defensive holding call on Murphy-Bunting. New Orleans drove to its 44 before unleashing a trick play.
Kamara took a direct snap and gave the ball to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a reverse Sanders lateraled back to Jameis Winston. The reserve QB launched an accurate pass down the middle to Tre'Quan Smith for a 56-yard score.
Ryan Succop's 37-yard field goal capped an up-tempo Bucs drive powered by Fournette's 40 yards from scrimmage, tying the score at 13 to end the half.
Brees' 16-yard pass to Smith put the Saints ahead 20-13, and New Orleans appeared primed to build on that lead when Brees completed a third-down pass to Jared Cook across the 50. Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. stripped Cook from behind and White snagged the loose ball as it bounced to him, returning it 18 yards to the New Orleans 40.
Five plays later, Brady hit Fournette over the middle for a 6-yard score.
Succop's 36-yard field goal made it 23-20 before White's interception of a pass intended for Kamara gave the Buccaneers the ball at the New Orleans 20.
Fournette finished with 107 yards from scrimmage, 63 on the ground. Kamara had 105 yards from scrimmage, with 85 on the ground. Thomas was held without a catch in his final game of an injury-plagued season.
Buccaneers: Linebacker Jack Cichy went out with an elbow injury in the first quarter.
Saints: Deonte Harris, who returned the first Tampa Bay punt 54 yards to set up a field goal, left with a neck injury in the first half.
The Bucs will try to advance to the second Super Bowl in franchise history with Brady, no stranger to high-stakes games in cold weather after his two decades in New England.
New Orleans might have to ponder life without Brees.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas finished with zero yards on four targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to the Buccaneers. After a terrific wild-card showing last week with five receptions for 73 yards and a score on seven targets, Thomas fell flat this week. Despite an injury-ridden season, the WR is clearly the top receiving option on the team heading into 2021 and remains a WR1 despite the potential change at QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette was the engine of his team's offense in a 30-20 divisional-round win over the Saints. Fournette turned 22 touches into 107 scrimmage yards, adding a touchdown to yet another solid outing. With Tom Brady struggling a bit, the 25-year-old came up with some timely runs and receptions, none bigger than a six-yard touchdown catch that tied the game late in the third quarter. Fournette has topped 20 touches and 100 yards in each of his last two games- he should remain a focal point of the offense when the Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers next week.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hauled in six receptions for 48 yards on nine targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. Sanders bounced back from a poor wild-card showing last week in which he only mustered two receptions for three yards. Nevertheless, this week and last week's performance summarize just how inconsistent the WR's 2020 season was. Sanders should be considered as only a WR3/flex option heading into 2021 drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing score in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Brady struggled to move the ball for much of the game but came up with big plays when they were needed. He fired touchdown passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette, then scored on a quarterback sneak to give his team the lead for good in the fourth. Brady has thrown for 580 yards and scored five total touchdowns in his past two playoff games, both against top-five pass defenses from the regular season. He'll get ready to travel to Lambeau Field for an epic clash in the NFC Championship against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara finished with 18 carries for 85 yards and three receptions for 20 yards on six targets in Sunday's loss to the Bucs. Kamara still managed to be effective despite the Saints' offense not being able to get going during the game. The RB finished the season with a career-high 932 rush yards and 16 rush touchdowns. As a focal point of this offense, he remains a solid RB1 heading into 2021 drafts.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished with 134 yards, one touchdown, and three picks in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Brees had a tough time producing in this loss which ultimately ended the Saints' season. Earlier today, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Sunday could very well be Brees' last game in the NFL and the QB would retire as one of the most accomplished players in league history.
Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback completed six of his eight passes for 66 yards after replacing Patrick Mahomes (concussion) in an AFC Divisional Round victory against the Cleveland Browns. The veteran also rushed for 12 yards on two carries. Henne put together and admirable performance on Sunday, but the Chiefs are hoping to have Mahomes back against the Buffalo Bills for the AFC Championship. If Henne were to start next week, all of the Chiefs position players would take a hit on their value. Henne should be avoided by all managers if he starts next weekend.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry turned in a solid outing in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Landry finished with seven catches for 20 yards and a touchdown in the loss while his 10 targets led the team. The veteran wideout struggled to gain much yardage after the catch but he managed to score Cleveland's only passing touchdown on a four-yard catch in the third quarter where he did a nice job getting both feet down in-bounds. Landry saw his production in the passing attack dip in the first year of the Kevin Stefanski era, despite top target Odell Beckham Jr. appearing in just seven games. As a player who scored a majority of his fantasy points over the years thanks to high volume, Landry's days as a fantasy WR2 are behind him He is best treated as a flex or reserve wideout heading into the 2021 fantasy season.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill caught eight of his 10 targets for 110 yards and also rushed three times for nine yards versus the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Divisional Round victory. Hill was one of the top pass catchers this season and he backed it up on Sunday with another strong performance. The Cheetah remains a WR1 option, but will face a tough battle in the AFC Championship Game versus the Buffalo Bills next weekend and managers may want to make sure that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is good to go before deploying any Chiefs player in their lineup.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt found the end zone in a 22-17 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round on Sunday. Hunt finished with 32 yards and a score on six carries while adding a two-yard reception in the game. The veteran running back had an up-and-down season with the Browns. On one hand, he scored 14 total touchdowns (including the two playoff games). On the other hand, his production in the passing game dipped drastically as he caught just nine balls over his final five games. Hunt will be a solid low-end RB2/high-end RB3 in fantasy in 2021 but his upside is capped playing behind Nick Chubb.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams lead the Chiefs backfield with 13 carries for 78 yards and caught all four of his targets for 16 yards in an AFC Divisional Round victory versus the Cleveland Browns. Williams saw the bulk of the work with Le'Veon Bell only getting two rushing attempts for six yards and being held catchless on two targets. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip/ankle) is getting close to a return and if he is healthy enough to play in the AFC Championship Game, Williams would like see in decrease in his workload. The Chiefs will draw a tough matchup against the Buffalo Bills next weekend and managers playing DFS should avoid the Chiefs backfield in that matchup.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb turned in a quiet performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Chubb carried the ball 13 times for 69 yards and added four yards on two receptions. He left several plays on the field in the passing game as he dropped consecutive catchable passes on a drive, the second of which would have gone for a long gain. Despite the disappointing playoff outing, Chubb is locked in as an RB1 in fantasy in the 2021 season as he runs behind one of the better offensive lines in the league and is part of a run-heavy Cleveland offense that should be even better in the second year of the Kevin Stefanski era. Chubb should go off draft boards in the late first or early-second round this summer.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield turned in a steady performance in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Mayfield completed 23 of 37 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the loss while adding 11 yards on three carries. The interception was just Mayfield's second in his past 11 games while his touchdown went to wideout Jarvis Landry. After an up-and-down 2020 campaign, the veteran quarterback should improve in 2021 with another year in the Kevin Stefanski offense under his belt and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to full health. Mayfield is looking like a mid-range QB2 with upside heading into the 2021 fantasy season.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) has been ruled out for the rest of Sunday's Divisional Round game versus Cleveland. Mahomes departed in the third quarter after coming up wobbly following a tackle on a QB scramble. The team took Mahomes into the tent on the sidelines, before he was able to run into the locker room to undergo further evaluation. Upon additional testing, he has been diagnosed with a concussion, which means that Chad Henne will assume QB duties for the rest of the game. The next chance that Mahomes would have to suit up comes next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game versus Buffalo if Kansas City can close out the Browns, although Mahomes will still need to clear concussion protocol for that to happen.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield is shaping up to feature Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and LeSean McCoy for Sunday's Divisional Round showdown with the Saints. Head coach Bruce Arians is set to stick with Fournette as the starter, with Jones planned to be rotated in; that leaves McCoy as the team's third RB option, one that cannot be relied upon for DFS purposes. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has been utilized in bunches this year, including receiving five carries during the Wild Card round, although his lost fumble likely has an impact on his inactive status Sunday. The Bucs' backfield rotation will continue to be a point of focus should the team advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday versus the Packers, but for this week, it'll likely be a Fournette/Jones split with a dash of McCoy, if necessary.