New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) hands the ball off to running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers scrambles during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Unless Drew Brees musters his first vintage performance of 2020, the Saints could struggle to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the recently potent Packers.
The first two weeks of this season have seen two of the finest quarterbacks in NFL history on divergent paths.
The Packers (2-0) are scoring more than 40 points per game. Rodgers has passed for six touchdowns and has yet to be intercepted.
The Saints (1-1) have played below their usual standard offensively and Brees, the NFL's all-time leader in yards and touchdowns passing, has been fielding questions about how his arm is holding up at age 41.
''I feel good, borderline great,'' Brees said, dismissing the notion that his relatively few downfield attempts is a sign of trouble.
''There are many statistics I do not pay one bit of attention to, and (yards per attempt) would be one,'' Brees continued. ''I am focused on putting us in positions to succeed, making great decisions, both in the run game and the pass game. ... I don't care how we do it. I honestly don't. I just want to win.''
Packers coach Matt Lafleur is disinclined to read much into Brees' slow start. For him, the sample size is too small.
''That is an anomaly that doesn't happen very often and it's just a matter of time before he gets it rolling like we're all accustomed to,'' Lafleur predicted. ''This is one of the most consistent - not only him as the quarterback, but one of the most consistent offenses over however many years that he and (coach) Sean (Payton) have been together.
''They're always at the top in the league in almost every category,'' Lafleur continued, adding that defenses should never let their guard down against New Orleans. ''As soon as you do, he's going to go out there and dice you and hang 45 on you.''
The Saints have indeed led the NFL in total offense six times, finished in the top five in five other seasons, and have never ranked worse than ninth since Brees and Payton joined forces in 2006.
But, for the moment, New Orleans ranks 21st in total offense in 2020, while Rodgers and the Packers lead the league.
''We've had multiple plays where we have guys that are wide, wide open,'' Rodgers marveled. ''A lot of that is due to the minor schematic changes we made in the offseason and implemented in training camp.
''When I'm playing on time and in rhythm, the offense I think can be more efficient as long as we have guys open,'' Rodgers continued. ''The two have been really correlated this year.''
AARON VS. ALVIN
Green Bay's Aaron Jones rushed for a career-high 168 yards in a 42-21 victory over Detroit and leads the NFL in rushing (234) and yards from scrimmage (312). New Orleans' Alvin Kamara ranks sixth in yards from scrimmage (241) and has found the end zone twice in each of the Saints' two games.
HOBBLED TOP TARGETS
There were questions about the health of top receivers on both teams this week.
Two-time All-Pro Michael Thomas, who set an NFL record with 149 catches last season, sat out the Saints' loss in Las Vegas on Monday night with an ankle sprain and did not take the field when the Saints returned to practice on Thursday.
Packers receiver Davante Adams, who already has 17 catches for 192 yards and two TDs this season, left last Sunday's victory over Detroit with a hamstring injury.
The Saints have been plagued by 248 yards in penalties, including 129 yards in their Week 2 loss to the Raiders.
''The good news is, it's only two weeks in and it'll be a lot more concerning here going forward, if it continues,'' Payton said. ''So, we've got to work harder at it. We've got to coach it better and reduce those fouls.''
FRIENDS TO FOES
Packers guard Elgton Jenkins and Saints reserve defensive back J.T. Gray are good friends who grew up together in Mississippi and are former Mississippi State teammates.
''We've been playing football with each other since peewee and college,'' Jenkins said. ''Just being down there and me seeing him play, him seeing me play and not being on the same team, so hopefully (we'll be) just going down there and putting on a show and we'll chop it up after the game.''
The Saints announced on Thursday they they'd received approval from state and local officials to allow about 750 family of players, coaches and staff to watch the game in the Superdome from field-level seating behind the New Orleans bench. They will join inactive players who formed a cheering section in a Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay in the Superdome, which was held with no fans.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.
The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.
Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.