New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leaves the field after their loss against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, said a person familiar with the situation. Brees has elected to have surgery, but it is not yet clear when the operation will take place or who will perform it, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, top, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97), who is blocked by Seahawks offensive guard Ethan Pocic (77) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. The Seahawks won 28-26. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (88) celebrates with teammates after making a touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
SEATTLE (AP) In his 13 seasons in charge New Orleans coach Sean Payton has always had one constant by his side.
Nearly every game. Nearly every snap. It's almost always been Drew Brees on the other end of the receiver, listening to what Payton is saying, and for the most part tormenting opponents.
And now Brees is gone for an undetermined time after surgery to repair an injured ligament near his right thumb. It's a test Payton's never faced, being without Brees for an extended period. It begins on Sunday when the Saints face fellow NFC contender Seattle.
Brees' injury comes in what was supposed to be a redemptive season for the Saints, with Super Bowl expectations that could put to rest the anguish of missing the title game a year ago, victimized by an officiating non-call. And for now, there is no panic among the Saints.
''That's the thing. Drew's down, we all know that. But we've still got the same coaching staff. We've got the same guys calling plays, especially like you said, Sean,'' New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara said. ''I don't feel like Sean's down. He's ready for the challenge.''
Brees has failed to start just three games since he and Payton arrived together in 2006. Not surprisingly, the Saints are 0-3 in those games, although two of those came in Week 17 with nothing at stake for New Orleans. Which is why this injury and this absence is so significant. It will be Teddy Bridgewater's team - with some Taysom Hill sprinkled in - for the next six games before the Saints' bye and likely any consideration of Brees' return.
''The job for us as coaches is to put a plan in place that gives our players the best chance to win,'' Payton said. ''I don't know if any one person has to change or step up but, by in large the group I think does.''
One person not expecting any sort of drop off is Seattle coach Pete Carroll, in part because of his admiration for the job Payton has done.
''After a few years coaching, you look forward to these kinds of matchups. It's one that we've been looking toward through the offseason,'' Carroll said. ''I have great respect for what he's done. He's a fantastic coach and I like that he's sculpted and then re-sculpted his team a couple times over the years and you can see the difference.''
The Seahawks won their first two games for the first time since the 2013 season that ended with Seattle winning its only Super Bowl title. But the Seahawks been lucky in getting to 2-0. Seattle beat Cincinnati by one in the opener, a game when the Bengals were without A.J. Green. They held off Pittsburgh 28-26 last week with Ben Roethlisberger playing only half the game.
And now they face the Saints minus Brees.
''You definitely got to remind the guys not to let their guard down because any day, you're in this professional league and the guys behind those guys are professionals,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''You can't take anybody lightly because they can come out having one of their best games.''
Here's what else to watch as the Seahawks look to win their fourth straight over the Saints in Seattle:
Bridgewater started Week 17 last year, but his last meaningful starts came during the 2015 season before suffering a catastrophic knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of two seasons and derailed his career. Bridgewater was 17 of 30 for 165 yards after taking over for Brees last week against the Rams.
''It's nothing like being out there during the games when it counts the most,'' Bridgewater said. ''Not saying the preseason doesn't count. I'd never take the game for granted. But just to go out there and compete at the high level is what that means.''
THE OTHER QB
It's worth mentioning how good Russell Wilson has been to start the season. He's completing 78 percent of his passes, has five touchdowns and no interceptions, and last week had his ninth career game of at least 300 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints' pass rush has produced nine sacks through two games, including three by reserve defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who seems to have made a big jump in his third season. He had two sacks as a rookie and none last season when he was a healthy scratch a number of games. For now, though, he has one more sack than 2017 first-team All-Pro Cam Jordan and two more than 2018 first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport. New Orleans' front has been productive so far without help from 2016 first-rounder Sheldon Rankins, who is close to returning from an Achilles tendon tear last January.
The Saints will be facing a Seattle offensive line that has underperformed so far and gave up four sacks last week to Pittsburgh.
How will the Saints use Hill? They've had the luxury of exposing him to heavy contact on special teams, as a tight end and as a change-of-pace, read-option QB because they had Bridgewater as a more conventional backup in the event of a Brees injury. If Bridgewater starts, Hill likely would be the primary backup, which could conceivably prompt Payton to dial back Hill's role as a utility player.
PERFECT AT HOME
Seattle is always really good at home: It has been exceptional in the first month of the season under Carroll. Seattle is 15-0 in September home games since Carroll took over in 2010. The Seahawks are the only unbeaten team in September during that time frame.
Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota will be replaced by backup Ryan Tannehill Sunday, Oct. 20, for the Week 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Fantasy Spin: Mariota should be kept in dynasty leagues, as the former No. 2 overall pick will surely get a look elsewhere is the Titans choose to part ways, but his time in Tennessee appears to be done. He can be dropped in all redraft formats and all but the deepest of keeper leagues.
New York Jets DB Bennett Jackson was signed by the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Jalen Mills (hamstring) returned to practice Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill was informed Tuesday, Oct. 15, he'll get the Week 7 start against the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Fantasy Spin: Tannehill becomes nothing more than a low-end QB2 even in an adequate matchup. He can be scooped up in deeper two-quarterback leagues, but he shouldn't be started this week unless there are no other available options.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Dare Ogunbowale led the backfield with 46 offensive snaps played in the Week 6 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Peyton Barber played 19 snaps and Ronald Jones saw just 13.
Fantasy Spin: Ogunbowale was rarely used when on the field, rushing just once for a three-yard touchdown while catching three of five passes for 22 yards. The Bucs trailed by large amounts for much of the game so this one-game sample shouldn't be worth much. Jones remains the most appealing of the three.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Oct. 15, in exchange for a 2020 first-round draft pick, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jaguars announced.
New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara (ankle) is dealing with a high-ankle type issue that will limit him in practice through the week, a source told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero Tuesday, Oct. 15. Kamara believes he still has a shot to play against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Oct. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Latavius Murray becomes a hot commodity on waiver wires wherever he's available. He doesn't possess Kamara-level abilities in the passing game, but he'll see the necessary volume on the ground even in a difficult matchup. Dwayne Washington is the only other RB on the roster.
Baltimore Ravens CB Marcus Peters will make his debut with the team Sunday, Oct. 20, against the Seattle Seahawks, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock (thumb), RB Theo Riddick (shoulder), TE Jake Butt (knee) and WR Tim Patrick (hand) are likely to return to practice next week, according to Mike Klis of 9News Tuesday, Oct. 15. Only two of the four will be able to be activated at that time.
Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith (leg) was spotted on the practice field Monday, Oct. 14, by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Smith is 11 months removed from the leg injury which ended his 2018 season and threatens his career. The veteran was throwing a variety of routes with two team officials and was later seen with a compression sleeve on his leg.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul (neck) participated in practice Tuesday, Oct. 15, opening the 21-day window for him to be activated to the 53-man roster. Pierre-Paul has spent all season on the Non-Football Injury list following an offseason car accident.
Denver Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) was listed as a non-participant in practice Tuesday, Oct. 15, while CB Duke Dawson (foot), OT Ja'Wuan James (knee) and DE Derek Wolfe (hip) were limited. DE Shelby Harris (ribs), OG Ronald Leary (shoulder), NT Mike Purcell (knee), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and S Will Parks (wrist) were listed as full participants. All of Tuesday's listings were estimates, as Denver held a walk-through as opposed to a formal practice.
Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (groin), CB Kendall Fuller (thumb), DT Chris Jones (groin) and OG Andrew Wylie (ankle) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 15. WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) was limited. OT Cameron Erving (groin), LB Anthony Hitchens (groin), DT Derrick Nnadi (elbow), LB Dorian O'Daniel (hamstring), OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle) and FB Anthony Sherman (shoulder) fully participated in practice.
New England Patriots QB Cody Kessler was released Tuesday, Oct. 15.
New Orleans Saints CB P.J. Williams was suspended for two games on Tuesday, Oct. 15, for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He is eligible to return in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Washington Redskins TE Jerome Cunningham (undisclosed) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 15. FB Michael Burton was signed to fill his spot on the roster.
Los Angeles Rams CB Marcus Peters was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for LB Kenny Young and an undisclosed 2020 draft pick on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Free-agent RB Josh Ferguson worked out for the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Washington Redskins RB Chris Thompson (toe) was diagnosed with a mild case of turf toe and his availability for Week 7 is 'in some doubt,' according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Spin: It couldn't be much worse timing for fantasy owners or the Redskins, as they are about ready to start a three-game stretch leading into the team's Week 10 in which Thompson figured to be quite busy. Wendell Smallwood is the most likely candidate to pick up the majority of snaps in the passing game if Thompson can't go, and he would be worth a flex play for however long Thompson needs to recover if that ends up being the case.