New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) carries on a pass reception ahead of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) and defensive end Vic Beasley (44) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes during warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Drew Brees looks at Tampa Bay and sees an opportunity for the New Orleans Saints to reassert themselves, though not necessarily because the Buccaneers have a young, inexperienced secondary.
The Bucs may rank last in the NFL in pass defense, but the veteran quarterback of the NFC South leaders - coming off a lopsided loss to the Atlanta Falcons - says he pays a lot more attention to game film than numbers while preparing for an opponent.
''I'm saying just in general, I don't look at statistics and then judge a defense or anyone based just on the statistics,'' Brees said. ''I'm going to turn on the tape, I'm going to trust what I see, and then I'm going to go out to execute according to that.''
The Bucs (3-6) lead the NFL in run defense, yielding just 77.8 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, they're allowing an average of 299 through the air while giving up a league-high 31 points per game.
And that's before coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht decided to part ways with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was waived this week after being benched for a portion of last Sunday's 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
With a couple of other young, inexperienced players dealing with injuries, Tampa Bay probably will be forced to start three rookies (safety Mike Edwards, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean) and a second-year player (safety Jordan Whitehead) in the defensive backfield against the Saints on Sunday.
Brees isn't assuming New Orleans (7-2) will have a clear-cut advantage.
''They're young, but they're talented,'' the 40-year-old quarterback said. ''Look at the investment that they've made in their secondary over the last three years with draft picks.''
Hargreaves was a first-round pick, No. 11 overall in 2016. In addition to selecting him, the Bucs used four second-round selections, two third-round picks and a pair of fourth-rounders on defensive backs over the past four years.
''Defensively, we're still a work in progress. ... All those young kids in the secondary are getting better and better,'' said Arians, whose team ended a four-game losing streak against Arizona.
Now, it's the division-leading Saints looking to rebound after being held without a touchdown in last week's 26-9 loss to last-place Atlanta.
New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 31-24 at home without an injured Brees (thumb) on Oct. 6. After facing the Bucs again, the Saints will complete a stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South foes by hosting Carolina and traveling to Atlanta.
Brees expects the Saints to play better Sunday.
''We were extremely disappointed in our performance (last week). I think we know we're a lot better than that and understand that, especially at this point in the season, this is a time when we really want to start separating ourselves from the pack,'' he said.
While the Saints held Bucs receiver Mike Evans without a catch in their last meeting, the defender who primarily covered Evans might not be able to play on Sunday. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore left last weekend's game with a pulled hamstring. The Saints moved P.J. Williams to cornerback and rookie C.J. Gardner Johnson into Williams' usual nickel back slot. The results were encouraging. Although the Saints lost, the Falcons finished with fewer than 200 net yards passing. Still, Saints coach Sean Payton is weary of Jameis Winston's ability to get the ball downfield to both Evans and Chris Godwin.
''Their passing numbers right now are outstanding when you look at (the Bucs' success rate on) third down, at what they're scoring,'' Payton said. ''So, changing up the looks, trying to affect him is important and then understanding, hey, how are the interceptions coming, how are the fumbles coming? All of those things you study.''
Hargreaves was due to earn $9 million next season, although it was guaranteed for injury only. While the impending salary was a factor in the decision to release the fourth-year pro, the move also reiterated one of Arians' points of emphasis in his first season with the Bucs.
''You control your attitude and your effort,'' the coach said. ''You don't control a lot of things, but you control those two - and they better be good.''
Starting left guard Andrus Peat, a 2018 Pro Bowl selection and 2015 first-round pick, broke his arm during New Orleans' loss to Atlanta and had surgery this week. His recovery could keep him out until the final week of the regular season. Will Clapp, a second-year pro out of LSU, was first off the bench to replace Peat during the game. Clapp struggled, but so did much of the offensive line that day, when Brees was sacked six times. In addition to Clapp, the Saints have a couple of veterans who could sub in as needed: Nick Easton and Patrick Omameh. Easton was signed as a free agent when center Max Unger retired, but the Saints then acquired Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the second round of last spring's draft and he won the job. Easton has played in just three games this season and was a healthy scratch last weekend, but that could change.
''Every season, you're going to have guys that go down for a period of time - you hope not too long, and you have to have guys step up and fill in,'' Brees said. ''I'm confident with the guys we have to do that.''
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant was carted off the field in Week 14's game against the Houston Texans. The rookie suffered a foot injury and was taken to the locker room on a cart but was later seen returning to the sideline, also on the cart. With the Broncos up 38-17 in the fourth quarter, there's no reason to rush Fant back into the game. Before leaving, he'd caught four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Devante Parker (concussion) and Albert Wilson (concussion) have both been ruled out for Sunday's game at the Jets. Parker had two catches for 28 yards before being evaluated for a concussion and Wilson had just one catch for five yards. The Dolphins will update the status of each after the game but both are question marks for next week. Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford are the leading receivers for Miami with tight end Mike Gesicki also expected to see more usage if Parker were to miss time.
New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is officially active for the team's Week 14 game.
Fantasy Spin: Sanu has had one good game since joining the Patriots but has been dealing with the ankle injury. He should see a solid amount of targets and can be a No. 3 receiver or flex option in fantasy leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (hand) suffered a right hand injury during the Week 14 game and is considered questionable to return.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players should keep an eye on the situation to see if Winston will miss an extended period of time because of the injury. Ryan Griffin would take over the starting job if Winston is sidelined but should be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Atlanta Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (forearm) suffered a forearm injury during the Week 14 game and is considered questionable to return.
Detroit Lions DT A'Shawn Robinson (shoulder) suffered a shoulder injury during the Week 14 game and is considered questionable to return.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns with an apparent ankle injury. Tate went down awkwardly on his ankle in the third quarter after making a catch, and while he was able to walk off the field under his own power, he was soon after walking to the locker room with his gloves and helmet off. There has been no official announcement yet, but Tate looked doubtful to return at best. Before getting hurt, he made one catch for 16 yards on four targets.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (shoulder) is officially active for the team's Week 14 game.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman continues to be the main option in the passing game for the Patriots and will see plenty of targets this week. He is a must-start option in all leagues.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (concussion) has been ruled out for the remainder of Sunday's game with the 49ers. Cook took a hit to the head that was flagged for targeting a defenseless receiver while coming down with his second touchdown of the day. Cook was evaluated for a possible head injury and has been ruled out according to the team's Twitter account. Josh Hill is now listed as the team's starting tight end but he won't have any fantasy relevance. Expect Taysom Hill to play the role of tight end for New Orleans near the goal line.
Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice has been ruled out for the remainder of Week 14's game against the Green Bay Packers. Guice exited due to a knee injury and was immediately labeled as questionable to return. Not much later, he was ruled out for the rest of the contest. Before being forced to leave, Guice ran the ball five times for an explosive 42 yards. With all of Guice's previous knee issues, this is of course something to keep an eye on heading into Week 15 as well. Adrian Peterson will carry the load for Washington on the ground for as long as Guice is out.
The Oakland Raiders have declared LB Kyle Wilber, WR Hunter Renfrow, CB Isaiah Johnson, DL Terrell McClain, QB Mike Glennon, OG Trent Brown and RB Josh Jacobs inactive for Week 14.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared CB Artie Burns, QB Paxton Lynch, LB Tuzar Skipper, RB James Conner, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, TE Zach Gentry and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster inactive for Week 14.
The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Chad Henne, CB Rashad Fenton, RB Damien Williams, OT Jackson Barton, CB Morris Claiborne, TE Deon Yelder and OG Nick Allegretti inactive for Week 14.
Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) has been ruled out for week 14 vs Tennessee. Jacobs was attempting to play through a broken shoulder plate but was ruled out after testing his shoulder with trainers during pregame warmups. Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington would likely split work in Jacobs' absence with Richard having more fantasy relevance thanks to his role in the passing game.
Updating a previous report, New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook (concussion) suffered a concussion during the Week 14 game and will not return.
Fantasy Spin: Cook will need to pass all of the concussion tests before he is cleared to play, so his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Josh Hill would be the main tight end for the Saints if Cook misses time and could be a low-end No. 1 tight end in deeper leagues.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews (knee) suffered a knee injury during the Week 14 game and is considered doubtful to return.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on the situation since Andrews has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle would see more targets if Andrew misses any time and could be starting options in some leagues.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have declared DT Carl Davis, DB Ronnie Harrison, TE Seth DeValve, CB Tae Hayes, QB Joshua Dobbs, OT Brandon Thomas and DT Dontavius Russell inactive for Week 14.
The Los Angeles Chargers have declared LB Denzel Perryman, OG Spencer Drango, DB Tevaughn Campbell, DL Jerry Tillery, QB Easton Stick, OT Trey Pipkins and S Roderic Teamer inactive for Week 14.
Washington Redskins CB Quinton Dunbar (hamstring) suffered a hamstring injury during the Week 14 game and is considered questionable to return.
Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice (knee) exited Sunday's game vs the Packers and is being evaluated for a possible knee injury. Guice walked off under his own power, but given his injury history, there's reason to be concerned. The team doctors were looking at his left knee which is the one he injured earlier this season. The Redskins have listed him as questionable to return. Adrian Peterson would see an uptick in carries in Guice's absence.