Guest of the League
The Empire Est. 2019
FFL: Playoff Week 2 | NFL: Week 15

Brees throws for 228 yards, 3 TDs as Saints beat Bucs 34-17

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By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Ted Ginn Jr., Jared Cook, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Jameis Winston, Peyton Barber, Alvin Kamara, Chris Godwin

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) reacts after throwing an interception to New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)


New Orleans Saints strong safety Vonn Bell (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) gets pulled down by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) steps over a tackle by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)


New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., (19) celebrates his touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) beats Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) on a 16-yard touchdown reception during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The New Orleans Saints played with the urgency of a team determined to get back on track.

''You lose a game, you move forward. The next game can't come quick enough,'' coach Sean Payton said Sunday after the NFC South leaders rebounded from an ugly loss to last-place Atlanta with a 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Drew Brees threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, and NFL receptions leader Michael Thomas became the first player in league history with 90-plus catches in the first 10 games of a season for the Saints (8-2).

In addition to a 16-yard scoring pass to Thomas in the first half, Brees tosses TD passes of 3 yards to Jared Cook and 6 to Ted Ginn Jr. after New Orleans was held out of the end zone during the previous week's 26-9 loss to the Falcons.

Safety Marcus Williams put an exclamation point on a strong defensive performance, returning the third of New Orleans' four interceptions 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Saints up 34-17 with just over five minutes remaining.

Thomas, who also became the first player with at least 90 receptions in each of his first four NFL seasons, had eight catches for 114 yards. That boosted his totals for 2019 to 94 receptions for 1,141 yards. The previous high for most catches in the first 10 game of a season was 89 by Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and Atlanta's Julio Jones.

Brees isn't surprised.

''It's just what we see every day in practice. Maybe it's one of those things that when it's all said and done you'll look back and you'll really appreciate it. I just love his mindset. He is a `I want the ball, I will get open, I will make the play for you' guy,'' Brees said.

''I've played with a lot of good ones, a lot of great ones, and the thing that's common with those guys is the trust factor,'' Brees added. ''You have to be able to anticipate certain things which allow you to play with confidence and be accurate and make a lot of those throws that others might not try to make.''

A battered Jameis Winston completed 30 of 51 passes for313 yards and two TDS for the Bucs (3-7), who have lost five of six following a 2-2 start. In addition to throwing four interceptions, Winston was sacked twice and pressured all day by a persistent pass rush that left him hobbling across the field on a sore ankle to try to make the tackle on Williams' long interception return up the New Orleans sideline.

''Too many mistakes to beat a good team,'' Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said.

''It's very frustrating. We've got the players. It's never been about the players since I've been here,'' said receiver Mike Evans, closing in on his sixth 1,000-yard season, said. ''It's just we've been very, very inconsistent. ... I don't know what we've got to do to overturn it, but we've got to do something because this feeling is awful.''

Brees, meanwhile, was 28 of 35 with no interceptions in his third start since returning from a thumb injury that sidelined him five games. The Saints outgained the Bucs 195 yards to 11 while building an early 20-0 lead, controlling the ball for 20 of the game's first 25 minutes. An offensive line playing without injured guard Andrus Peat protected the 40-year-old quarterback, who was not sacked Sunday after Atlanta got to him six times the previous week.

''One of the things we felt like was going to be important in this game was a fast start on the road, and I thought we had that,'' Payton said. ''It wasn't our best game, but I thought we did a lot of good things to win.''

Winston threw TD passes of 6 yards to Peyton Barber and 30 yards to Chris Godwin. Tampa Bay ran the ball a franchise-low eight times for 36 yards, with Winston scrambling for a team-leading 23 on two attempts.

KAMARA FACTOR

Saints running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries. He also had a team-high 10 receptions for 47 yards.

''It's huge,'' Kamara said of getting back on track after losing to the Falcons. ''Any time you lose, it's just a little bit more of a heightened awareness to go into the next game, execute and ... come out with a victory.''

NICE ENCORE

The Saints beat the Bucs 31-24 in New Orleans in Week 5, holding Evans without a catch. While replicating that success figured to be difficult, even if injured cornerback Marshon Lattimore - the primary defender on Evans in the earlier meeting - had played Sunday, the Saints nevertheless did a nice job again of containing one of the league's top receivers with P.J. Williams filling in for Lattimore.

Evans had four catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns. The sixth-year pro boosted his season total to 58 for 993 yards - seven yards shy of joining Hall of Famer Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to begin a career with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

INJURIES

Saints: Played without Lattimore (hamstring) and Peat (forearm), who were injured during last week's loss to Atlanta. Team did not announce any injuries during the game.

Buccaneers: OLB Carl Nassib (groin) missed his second straight game, replaced in the starting lineup by Jason Pierre-Paul. ... Winston said he was hit in the ankle while throwing the interception that Williams returned for a touchdown. He added he doesn't expect it to be a problem or affect his status for next week.

UP NEXT

Saints: Return home to host Carolina on Sunday, continuing stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South rivals.

Buccaneers: at Atlanta on Sunday.

Player Notes
Aaron Rodgers Dec 14 2:30am ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a difficult matchup on Sunday against a Bears Defense that limited him to just 203 yards and a touchdown during the Thursday night season opener. The veteran hasn't been consistent, especially as of late, and has logged a touchdown or less in four of his last five games. The 36-year-old has played relatively well against Chicago throughout his tenure in the league, however, maintaining a 66.9 completion percentage to go along with 46 scores and only 10 picks in 22 career meetings. The upside is there for the fantasy managers who won't be scared off by his recent string of shoddy performances and is worth a start in Week 15 in all formats.

From RotoBaller

Stefon Diggs Dec 14 1:10am ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs had a great game in a tough matchup last week, beating Darius Slay for six catches and 92 yards in the win. He'll have another tough draw against Casey Hayward and the Los Angeles Chargers Defense in Week 15. They have a great secondary and play a lot of zone coverage, which is not Diggs' strong suit. However, Diggs has shown huge upside this season and he put up strong fantasy numbers despite tough matchups in two of the last three weeks. Having Adam Thielen back to draw attention away only helps his cause, and this game projecting to be close means that the Vikings will likely be forced to the air more. Start Diggs as a WR2 who has some sneaky upside in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Dec 14 12:40am ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is as volume-based RB1 in Week 15, as he has been for most of the season. He wasn't listed on the injury report at all on Friday and backup Alexander Mattison (ankle) being out definitely increases his projected workload. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah will split the backup role, but it's unlikely that they'll see the type of volume that Mattison was getting. The Chargers Defense ranks 23rd in rush DVOA but has been stingy as of late as they've had key players return from injury. In fact, they haven't allowed a back to eclipse 63 total yards in their last three games. Start Cook as an RB1 this week as he's a lock for at least 20 touches and a good bet for a few red zone opportunities.

From RotoBaller

Leonard Fournette Dec 13 11:20pm ET

Despite struggling in Week 14 against the Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette should still be considered a solid RB2 in Week 15 against the Oakland Raiders. Fournette dominates the backfield touches on this Jaguars team and has seen his role as a pass-catcher increase over the past three games. The Raiders Defense hasn't offered too much resistance to opposing backs this year and are also allowing the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs. With D.J. Chark out, expect quarterback Gardner Minshew to rely more on Fournette as a receiving option as well, setting him up for what should be a solid outing.

From RotoBaller

Dede Westbrook Dec 13 11:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook should be the team's top weapon on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with fellow receiver D.J. Chark already ruled out. Westbrook entered the year as the team's number one target, but Chark emerged as a key deep threat and Westbrook dealt with injuries. Now, though, the third-year receiver has a great shot to put up strong fantasy numbers against a Raiders team that's allowing the 13th-most PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers. He's still got risk, especially as he deals with a shoulder issue, but he's the best fantasy option among Jags pass-catchers this week.

From RotoBaller

Gardner Minshew II Dec 13 11:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for just 162 yards in his return to the starting role last week, but he should be in line to surpass that when Jacksonville faces the Oakland Raiders in Week 15. Oakland allows the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and the last time Minshew started against a comparable defense in fantasy points allowed was when he threw for 300 yards against Houston in Week 9. D.J. Chark won't play, which puts a little damper on Minshew's upside, but this is still a plus matchup for the rookie, who should be considered as a solid QB2.

From RotoBaller

DeVante Parker Dec 13 8:50pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker has signed a four-year extension with the team that includes the next two years guaranteed, locking the breakout receiver into a deal with a rebuilding Miami team. This is a good spot for Parker, who's been become a reliable fantasy option for the Dolphins this season, and while there's risk involved based on his track record, he should still be considered a strong fantasy option moving forward in dynasty leagues.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Donald Dec 13 8:40pm ET

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is eighth in fantasy points at the position over the last five weeks. He isn't posting out-of-this-world numbers, but he gets to the quarterback almost every game. The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the game, and Donald doesn't do much outside of the sacks category. Sit him this week.

From RotoBaller

Jared Goff Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has started to right the ship a bit after a three-game touchdown drought. He has thrown for 717 yards, four touchdowns and two picks the last two games. He'll have a solid matchup against a struggling Dallas Cowboys Defense. They've allowed 218.8 passing yards a game the last five games, but they've allowed nine touchdowns to one interception total during the span. Roll with Goff as a low-end QB1 with some upside.

From RotoBaller

Cooper Kupp Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been really sketchy of late, but he has scored a couple of touchdowns to salvage his last two weeks. He has 19 grabs for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the last five games. Quarterback Jared Goff has really grown a rapport with receiver Robert Woods, and Kupp has suffered. The Dallas Cowboys are a midrange matchup, and Kupp is a low-end WR2 this week.

From RotoBaller

Todd Gurley Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has performed like an RB1 in his best stretch of the season the last five weeks. He has rushed 85 times for 366 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Gurley caught a modest 11 balls for 87 yards during the stretch. The Cowboys present a midrange matchup that has allowed 3.9 yards per carry during the same span. Gurley will be a high-end RB2 this week.

From RotoBaller

Robert Woods Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods is having the best run of his career the last five weeks. In point-per-reception formats, he ranks seventh in fantasy points. He also missed a game due to personal reasons in the span. He's averaging 8.3 receptions for 115.5 yards during the last four games, but the one downside is he has one touchdown on the season. The Dallas Cowboys are a midrange matchup, and Woods is a high-end WR2 play.

From RotoBaller

Brandin Cooks Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has caught four passes for 56 yards in the last three games since returning from a concussion. His freefall disqualifies him from consideration for fantasy against the Dallas Cowboys.

From RotoBaller

Greg Zuerlein Dec 13 8:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is 6-for-9 in field goals the last five games, and he has nailed all 11 extra points in what has been a bit of an outage in fantasy. The offense isn't presenting him enough opportunities, and the Dallas Cowboys limit what kickers do against them as well. Steer clear of "Greg The Leg" again this week.

From RotoBaller

Los Angeles Rams Dec 13 8:30pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been good over the last five weeks as they're seventh in fantasy points. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the better teams against opposing defenses because they don't turn the ball over or allow many sacks. Look elsewhere for a defense this week.

From RotoBaller

David Johnson Dec 13 8:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson came through with a receiving touchdown last week in his first visit to the end zone in nearly two months. Running back Kenyan Drake has really diminished Johnson's role. Johnson has rushed for just 36 yards on 12 carries (3.0 yards per rush) with five catches for 51 yards in his last four games. Maybe the last week's touchdown gave him a bigger piece of the pie, but he can't be played until that's evident. Sit him against the Cleveland Browns.

From RotoBaller

Christian Kirk Dec 13 8:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk balled out with a three-touchdown game a month ago, but he has slowed since. He has averaged 5.7 catches for 49.7 receiving yards and no touchdowns per game the last three games. He catches enough to be used in point-per-reception formats, but his yardage and touchdown output is suspect without that point. The Cleveland Browns are a bend-but-don't-break matchup. They've allowed 162.8 receiving yards and 11.8 catches over the last five games and two touchdowns total to the position. Kirk is worth using as a flex option in PPR leagues, but he's a risky choice in non-PPR formats.

From RotoBaller

Zane Gonzalez Dec 13 8:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez has lost most of his fantasy appeal in recent weeks. He isn't likely to get it back against the Cleveland Browns. They have allowed opposing kickers to go 7-for-10 in field goals and 9-for-9 in extra points. Gonzalez is lacking the upside to use him in the tough matchup.

From RotoBaller

Kirk Cousins Dec 13 8:20pm ET

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is coming off a game in which he completed 80% of his passes for 242 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, continuing a streak of stellar play for the much-maligned passer. Facing a tough Los Angeles Chargers Defense on the road, it's likely that Cousins will need to throw a bit more with the Vikings currently favored by just one point. The Chargers rank in the top-five in fewest fantasy points allowed to the position and haven't given up more than 182 yards passing in three consecutive weeks. Interestingly, they rank 20th in pass DVOA. Star wideout Adam Thielen is finally set to return, giving Cousins a full complement of weapons and (finally) taking some pressure off of Stefon Diggs. This offense is clicking, and Cousins should have the volume to put up some usable fantasy numbers in this matchup. Start him as a high-end QB2 and keep him in your daily fantasy player pool.

From RotoBaller

Chandler Jones Dec 13 8:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones has been hit or miss lately because his fantasy value is predicated on sacks. He has 18 tackles (13 solo), 4.5 sacks, a pass defense and two forced fumbles the last four games, which sneaks him into the top 20 linebackers. He's too risky to use against the Cleveland Browns this week.

From RotoBaller