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.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup came up empty in a rough Week 7 loss. Gallup was targeted twice but couldn't come down with either pass, ending up with a blank box score and zero fantasy points. Gallup was working as a field stretcher with Dak Prescott around, but now with Andy Dalton and possibly Ben DiNucci throwing the ball for the Cowboys, Gallup seems much more likely to hit the "bust" part of his boom-or-bust fantasy outlook.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas caught all four of his targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win over the Cowboys. Thomas played second-fiddle to Terry McLaurin in the passing game as no other Washington player had more than two targets. Thomas made them count catching several big passes to move the chains while finding the end zone for the third time this season. Thomas has had an up-and-down season but is getting enough weekly targets to be considered a borderline starter in 12-team fantasy leagues. He'll be a touchdown-dependant starter in his next matchup in Week 9 versus the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard racked up 37 yards off 13 carries during the heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns. He also added five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The veteran filled in admirably for Joe Mixon (foot), who is considered week-to-week after being injured during the Week 6 encounter with the Colts. At this point, the 28-year-old has likely found a home on fantasy rosters. However, if he is still floating around the waiver wire, managers should pick him up before it's too late, especially if Mixon cannot suit up against the Titans in Week 8. Although Bernard isn't the most efficient runner, he should continue to benefit from the team's pass-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 56 scrimmage yards on 12 total touches in a victory over the Panthers. Murray's 4.3 yards per carry were a bit skewed, as he picked up 25 yards on one run and just 22 yards on the other 10 carries. Still, the opportunity Murray is getting is encouraging for those who have him rostered, as the coaching staff clearly trusts him. It bears repeating, but if something were to happen to Alvin Kamara, Murray would be an easy start as an RB1.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin posted a 7-90-1 line versus the Cowboys to help lead Washington to a win over their division rival. The sophomore receiver was a huge part of the game plan against a bad Dallas secondary as McLaurin was targeted 11 times, his fourth game this season with double-digit targets. It could have been an even bigger game for McLaurin but he came up inches short of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He made up for it a couple of drives later as he torched Trevon Diggs for a 52-yard score. McLaurin doesn't operate in the NFL's most electrifying offense, but his combination of skill and target-floor make him one of the best WR options in fantasy. He'll have another solid matchup with the Giants in Week 9 after the bye.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 14 times for 83 rushing yards and caught all eight targets for 65 receiving yards in a 27-24 win. The 83 rushing yards tied a season-high for Kamara, as the running room was easy to find against Carolina's ground defense. Amazingly, the star halfback has exceeded 100 scrimmage yards in every game but one- and he ended up with two scores in that contest to salvage his day. There might be no better player to roster in fantasy football right now, so managers should keep riding the Kamara wave into a Week 8 contest against a Bears Defense that can be had on the ground.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) will have an MRI performed on Monday. The veteran was forced out of Sunday's matchup against the Bengals after injuring his left knee in the first quarter. Although the team fears the worst, fantasy managers should wait until official confirmation before hitting the panic button. Heading into Week 7, the 27-year-old grabbed 23 of his 42 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz made two catches in Week 7, gaining 22 yards. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Schultz ended up second on the team in both catches and receiving yards. He was targeted four times in a game in which the Cowboys couldn't do much of anything on offense. Even if Andy Dalton (head) is able to play next week, Schultz may be no better than a mid-range TE2. Things are rough on both sides of the ball in Dallas right now.
Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was targeted five times in an ugly Week 7 loss, failing to catch any of those targets. He was given one carry and gained one yard. In standard scoring leagues, Lamb put up just 0.1 fantasy points. It was a bad game for pretty much everyone in a Cowboys uniform. Even if Andy Dalton (head) isn't forced to miss time, Lamb and all of the Cowboys pass catchers are getting a huge downgrade compared to when Dak Prescott (ankle) was under center.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught only two passes for 32 yards in the Packers 35-20 romp over the Texans in Week 7. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was generous with his offensive distribution but Tonyan was unable to enjoy the fruits of the teams prosperity. Fantasy teams that raced to pick up Tonyan after his three-touchdown performance in Week 4 have been rewarded with only five catches for 57 yards over the last two weeks. Tonyan's fantasy value will continue to sink heading into Week 8.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper had the only remotely productive offensive game for the Cowboys in Week 7. He caught seven passes for 80 yards and added a carry for five more yards on the ground. Cooper was targeted seven times and caught everything sent his way. He ended up leading the team in catches, targets, and yards all by a significant margin. It was a rough game for the Cowboys in all aspects, but in the "someone has to catch the ball" situations that the Cowboys may have going forward, Cooper is the most likely to be that "someone". Cooper will remain a volume-based WR2 option regardless of the Cowboys quarterback situation going forward.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers 35-20 win over the Texans in Week 7. Adams simply could not be stopped, wreaking havoc all over the field with his team-high 16 targets in the game. The Packers offense simply is a different beast when Adams is on the field, as the star receiver now has two enormous fantasy performances under his belt this season. Adams heads into Week 8 with 36 receptions for 449 yards and four touchdowns through only four games this season.
Another week, another touchdown reception for Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V, who now has one in five consecutive games. It seems like his Week 2 game where he wasn't targeted triggered some kind of change in this offense. Fuller finished Sunday's loss to Green Bay with three catches for 35 yards and the score. He wasn't as involved as he had been recently, but if Fuller can keep having such a nose for the end zone, he'll be a solid WR2 play moving forward for fantasy managers.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard got eight carries in Week 7, gaining just 16 yards. He added one catch, gaining six yards on his only target. The Cowboys offense as a whole is looking like a complete mess. Even if Pollard continues to get more carries than expected, he won't find much room to run behind a struggling Cowboys offensive line. He's still worth rostering behind Ezekiel Elliott, but isn't a starting option beyond the deepest fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams came off the bench to carry the ball 19 times for 77 yards with one touchdown in the Packers 35-20 win over the Texans in Week 7. Williams added four catches for 37 yards in place of injured star running back Aaron Jones as the Packers cruised to victory. Williams punched in a one-yard carry for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory. There is a cautious expectation that Jones will return to the lineup next week but, either way, Williams represents one of the better handcuff options in fantasy moving forward.
Houston Texans wide receiver Randall Cobb led the team in both receptions and receiving yards in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers. He finished with eight catches for 95 yards. Cobb's production in Houston has been inconsistent and he's usually been the No. 3 guy in the pecking order, but he's going to have some games where he steps into a larger role. This was one of them and showed why he's rosterable in deeper leagues, even if playing him can be a bit of a roller coaster.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry (head) was taken to the locker room in the first quarter of the team's Week 7 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Harry took a hard hit from 49ers safety Tarvarius Moore on an incomplete pass and was helped off the field. He had one catch for six yards on two targets before the injury. His return should be considered questionable.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 29 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown. Brees was accurate throughout the contest, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. The veteran even scored a rushing touchdown for the second straight game, pulling the old jump-over-the-line trick for a one-yard score. The lone mistake was a fumble, but that doesn't change the fact that Brees has now thrown for at least 300 yards or two scores in every game this season. He'll be in the conversation as a starting option in Week 8, despite the tough matchup against the Bears.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 23-of-34 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers 35-20 win over the Texans. The Packers cruised in this game as Rodgers enjoyed an excellent bounce back performance after failing to pass for a score in Week 6 against the Buccaneers. Rodgers connected with receiver Davante Adams time and time again and the veteran passer now has four touchdown passes in three games this season. Rodgers will head into next week against the Vikings with 1,657 passing yards on the season with 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks didn't find the end zone in Sunday's loss to the Packers, breaking a two-game scoring streak. But Cooks did catch seven passes for 60 yards in the loss, putting up another solid line. Cooks has arguably been the biggest beneficiary of the team's in-season head coaching change and he should be considered a WR3 play going forward.