New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) So long, Brady and Brees. Hello Mac and Jameis.
In three games between the Saints and Patriots from 2009 to 2017, Drew Brees and Tom Brady were the focal points whenever the teams shared the field.
Including Brees' time with the Chargers, the matchup between the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks had eight chapters. Brees won five, Brady three. It ended last season when a 43-year-old Brady sent his 42-year-old counterpart into retirement after Brady's Buccaneers eliminated the Saints from the playoffs.
When New Orleans and New England face off Sunday, it will mark the first time the teams have met since 2005 that Brees and Brady won't be the opposing quarterbacks.
It hasn't tamped down the intrigue, with Patriots rookie Mac Jones drawing all kinds of Brady comparisons and the Saints' Jameis Winston on a mission to prove he can still be a dependable starter after some rocky years in Tampa Bay.
This week is also big for other reasons. Coming off their first win last week against the Jets, the Patriots want to keep that momentum going ahead of the highly anticipated return of Brady in Week 4. The Saints are hoping to bounce back after an ugly 26-7 loss at Carolina.
''The biggest thing, is building on the positives and avoiding the same mistakes, not having the same mistake show up, not having that same action show up,'' Winston said.
So far, Winston has looked a bit like the mercurial quarterback he was for much of his first five NFL seasons with Tampa Bay. In Week 1, he passed for five TDs without an interception. In Week 2, he threw two interceptions without a TD pass.
Jones, who followed up his 281-yard, one touchdown passing performance in Week 1 against the Dolphins with a 186-yard effort in last week's win over the Jets, said he's learned a lot in his short time as an NFL starter.
''I think we've definitely improved, and we just have to continue to do that, so we will,'' he said. ''It just goes back to practice and fixing what we can fix, and then keeping everything that we know and that we're good at in our back pocket, and when it comes up, we know how to do it.''
One thing that is helping ease Jones' transition into his first NFL season is the strong play of New England's defense.
Led by cornerback J.C. Jackson's two interceptions, the Patriots had four picks in their win over the Jets and have a plus-3 turnover differential - tied for second in the league. Veteran safety Devin McCourty points to the comfort level Jackson has found in his fourth season.
''He's starting to understand more football,'' McCourty said. ''To understand what more offenses are doing. ... Last year into this year he's really been a full-time starter out there playing more plays and I think that's when you have to start to grow.''
The Saints have been contrite this week about their blocking failures at Carolina in Week 2. They had just six first downs and 128 net yards while Winston had a career-low passer rating of 26.9 after completing 11 of 22 passes for 111 yards and no TDs against two interceptions. Winston was often trying to throw under duress and was sacked three times.
This week, the Saints have been focused on better pre-snap communication at the line of scrimmage.
''I'm confident in me being able to handle that (communication) process with those guys effectively so we can get the protections where they need to be,'' Winston said.
After being deactivated in Week 1, Saints first-round draft choice Payton Turner finally made his NFL debut in Week 2. The 6-foot-6, 269-pound defensive end out of Houston was one of the few bright spots in a lopsided loss to the Panthers. He had his first sack and made five tackles, including three for losses.
Saints coach Sean Payton was confident that many of the eight assistant coaches - six on offensive and two on the defensive side - who could not attend the club's Week 2 loss at Carolina would be available to travel to New England. They all had been vaccinated and needed just two negative tests 24 hours apart to be cleared to return.
''There's a point where you are just out of it because of time; you're no longer contagious,'' Payton said. ''That's going to involve a handful of them by the end of the week. There's no way with the current setup that these guys are going to miss New England because we'll be at the 10-day mark where there's no longer any risk of giving it to anyone.''
Dallas Cowboys starting safety Damontae Kazee was arrested early Tuesday morning on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the police. Kazee was booked on a Class B misdemeanor and was released after posting $2,500 bond. The 28-year-old has started all six games this year and has 17 tackles (13 solo), an interception and a forced fumble for Dallas' improved defense. The Cowboys are on their bye in Week 7, but Kazee could be facing a suspension from the league and may not be available in Week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chicago Bears placed defensive back Deon Bush (quadriceps) on Injured Reserve and linebacker Robert Quinn on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Bush was injured in the Week 6 loss to the division-rival Green Bay Packers and will now be forced to miss at least the next three games. The sixth-year pro has 15 tackles and two passes defensed through the first six games of the year. Safety Teez Tabor was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad as a result. Quinn has 5.5 sacks, 19 tackles and five tackles for loss so far in 2021, so Chicago's defensive line could be at less than full strength in Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if he isn't cleared from the league's protocols this week.
The Carolina Panthers placed wide receiver Brandon Zylstra (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Zylstra has not been a very big part of Carolina's offense through six weeks, catching all eight of his targets for 139 yards and a touchdown. He will miss at least the next three games after landing on Injured Reserve. The injury to Zylstra should open up more opportunities for both rookie wide receivers Terrace Marshall Jr. and Shi Smith. Smith, a sixth-rounder out of South Carolina, caught his first two NFL targets in the Week 6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings for 20 yards.
The New England Patriots placed linebacker Chase Winovich (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Winovich injured his hamstring in the Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and will now miss at least the next three weeks. He hasn't been a big part of New England's defense, playing just 19% of the snaps, but he's contributed more frequently on special teams. The 26-year-old has recorded seven tackles (four solo) and a QB hit in six games on the season. Defensive back Myles Bryant was signed to the active roster off the practice squad to take Winovich's spot on the roster.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that "all signs" are pointing toward offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (head) entering the league's concussion protocol this week. Lewan was strapped to a stretcher and carted off the field in Monday night's win over the Buffalo Bills, so all things considered, this has to be good news. The 30-year-old won't be guaranteed to return in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it looks like he has avoided a serious neck injury. Kendall Lamm replaced Lewan at left tackle for the rest of the Monday night game and would likely get the start on quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side if Lewan isn't cleared for this weekend.
Denver Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb's (ankle) return isn't quite around the corner, according to head coach Vic Fangio. Chubb had a walking boot on his surgically repaired ankle on Tuesday and has been on Injured Reserve since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle on Sept. 22. Denver's defense got off to a hot start against some of the worst teams in the NFL, but they've come crashing back down to Earth and allowed a season-high 34 points to the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in the Week 6 loss. They could certainly use Chubb's pass-rushing help, but it doesn't look like it's coming anytime soon. Despite Denver's struggles on defense of late, they'll be on the streaming radar in Week 7 on Thursday night against a banged-up Cleveland Browns team.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (hip) was upgraded from a limited practice on Monday's estimated report to a full practice on Tuesday. Gordon has been dealing with some nagging injuries in recent weeks, but it hasn't kept him from playing on game days, and he continues to split the backfield work right down the middle with rookie Javonte Williams. The 28-year-old should be good to go for Thursday night's clash with the Cleveland Browns. Williams has been more efficient and has shown more big-play ability through six games, but Gordon is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns on 332 rushing yards on 70 carries. He'll be on the RB2/3 borderline again this week.
The New Orleans Saints designated wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring), linebacker Kwon Alexander (elbow) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) for return from Injured Reserve this week. The Saints will now have 21 days to activate the trio from Injured Reserve. Michael Thomas (ankle) is also getting closer to a return, but Smith appears to be ahead in his recovery. Smith has only played in one game in Week 4 before getting injured, and he wasn't targeted at all in the passing game. Marquez Callaway currently leads all Saints receivers with 13 receptions on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with Deonte Harris actually leading the team with 236 receiving yards. Smith could have a bigger role before Thomas returns, but it's hard to get excited about him in this low-volume Saints passing attack.
The Denver Broncos cut wide receiver David Moore on Tuesday, according to a source. The move isn't unexpected after the team added John Brown last week. Moore was active for two games but didn't record a reception on his two targets. The Broncos are also looking forward to the return of Jerry Jeudy, who remains on Injured Reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Jeudy has resumed workouts but has a less than 50% chance to return on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. There's a much better chance that Jeudy will make his return in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team. The second-year wideout figures to return to a considerable role in Denver's offense and should be rostered in all leagues.
New York Giants wide receiver C.J. Board (arm) was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after suffering a broken arm in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Board will miss at least the next three games while on IR, but he'll probably be out longer. The 27-year-old has just four catches on six targets for 51 yards through the first six games of the season, and he hasn't played more than 31% of the offensive snaps in any one game so far this season. With Kenny Golladay (knee) and rookie Kadarius Toney (ankle) unlikely to play in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, the Giants could be down to Sterling Shepard, Dante Pettis, Collin Johnson and John Ross as their primary receivers.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) missed another practice on Tuesday. His DNP designation on Monday came on the estimated practice report, but he actually missed practice on Tuesday. Beckham is looking truly questionable after missing some game time in the Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It could be a death blow to Cleveland's offense, as they'll also be without both starting running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf). If OBJ cannot play on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins and rookie Anthony Schwartz would operate in three-receiver sets if Jarvis Landry isn't ready to come off Injured Reserve. Peoples-Jones would be the most attractive after going for nine catches (11 targets), 171 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks.
New York Giants OT Korey Cunningham and WR Dante Pettis were signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Rashard Robinson was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The New York Giants placed left tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle, foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, so he'll be forced to miss at least the next three games. Thomas is dealing with a right foot injury and also a left ankle issue, so he was pretty hobbled in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants offensive line will be more vulnerable in the near future, beginning in a Week 7 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. It's bad news for quarterback Daniel Jones, especially if he's without starting running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) for a second straight game this weekend. Expect Matt Peart to fill in on Jones' blind side in the immediate future.
Denver Broncos WR David Moore was released Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is expected to be out for at least one game, according to a source. However, as of right now, it doesn't sound like the Giants plan on placing Toney on Injured Reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. The 22-year-old first-rounder exploded for 10 catches and 189 yards in Week 5 when Kenny Golladay injured his knee, and he was in line for another big role in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams before he aggravated his ankle on Sunday. Toney should remain involved in the passing game whenever he returns from his ankle injury, so he's worth stashing in deeper leagues. With Golladay not a lock to return in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers, Sterling Shepard could be in line for a massive target share.
Chicago Bears S Deon Bush (quad) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19. DB Teez Tabor was signed off the practice squad to replace him on the roster.
Free-agent RB Chris Thompson was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, Oct. 19.