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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Championship

Injury-plagued Saints brace for visit from desperate Colts

Thu Dec 12 9:07pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Jared Cook, Dontrelle Inman, T Y Hilton, Jack Doyle, Jacoby Brissett, Alvin Kamara, Parris Campbell, Marlon Mack

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) hurdles over San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward (20) in the first half an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)


Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack celebrates with offensive tackle Braden Smith (72) after his 2-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas in the second half an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) runs away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) celebrates his touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with running back Nyheim Hines (21) and wide receiver Parris Campbell (15) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)


New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson (52) celebrates his interception in the second half an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)


NEW ORLEANS (AP) Saints coach Sean Payton is trying not to let New Orleans' latest bout with key injuries undermine his club's Super Bowl aspirations.

A pair of starting defensive linemen who are both former first-round draft choices - end Marcus Davenport and tackle Sheldon Rankins - left last week's loss to San Francisco with what turned out to be season-ending injuries.

But as the Saints (10-3) prepare to meet Indianapolis (6-7) on Monday night, they do so having already demonstrated how resilient they can be without prominent players in the lineup.

The Saints went 5-0 while record-setting quarterback Drew Brees was out with a thumb injury early this season. Star running back Alvin Kamara, top receiving tight end Jared Cook, left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Andrus Peat, top cornerback Marshon Lattimore and return specialist Deonte Harris have missed games with injuries this season as well. Rankins also sat out the season's first three games while finishing up his recovery from an Achilles tendon tear in last season's playoff opener.

Yet by Thanksgiving, the Saints were NFC South Division title holders for a third season running and are still in contention to capture one of the top two playoff seeds in the conference.

''It's been a little bit more than we're used to,'' Payton said of the injuries to top contributors. ''You start with Drew, but it is what it is. You learn as you get older that there are certain things you can control. Those are the things you spend more time focusing on than the things you can't.''

The Saints are somewhat fortunate that they entered this season emphasizing depth on the defensive line. They still have experienced, productive players across their defensive front - just fewer of them. And they will be tested against Indy's sixth-ranked running game, featuring Marlon Mack.

''One of the things this year that we felt was beneficial was our depth at the defensive line position, carrying eight each game and getting into a rotation.'' Payton said. ''So that when you lose two starters, the depth helps you.''

The Colts could use a break, having lost five of six. They're now one loss from playoff elimination as they meet a Saints squad that odds makers have favored by more than a touchdown.

Indianapolis coach Frank Reich doesn't expect New Orleans' normally stout defensive front to crumble.

''They're rotating guys who substitute that are good players. I'm sure they feel like us and most teams do, these backups are going to step in and do a good job,'' Reich said. ''We certainly know we are going up against a good front.''

QUIET KAMARA

Dynamic Saints running back Alvin Kamara is coming off a relatively quite game by his prolific standards, with just 25 yards rushing and 18 receiving against San Francisco. That marked his second straight game with fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage, and third in the last five.

But Brees doesn't sound worried about Kamara, who needs just 38 yards receiving to become third player in NFL history with at least 500 yards receiving and 500 yards rushing in each of first three seasons.

''There's just only so many balls to go around,'' Brees said. ''Alvin is one of our playmakers. We want to get on the ball. We want to give him opportunities.''

FOURTH-QUARTER WOES

The Colts have blown second-half leads each of the past three weeks, putting their playoff hopes in peril.

Indy has slid from the top of the AFC South to third place, and the reason is simple. Houston, Tennessee and Tampa Bay have outscored the Colts 31-0 in the fourth quarter.

''Very frustrating,'' tight end Jack Doyle said, but added that he believes the Colts ''have the right group of guys'' to bounce back.

JUMPING IN

Rookie Parris Campbell became the fifth Colts receiver to land on injured reserve this season when he broke his foot last week.

Indy filled his spot by bringing back a familiar name, Dontrelle Inman.

The Virginia alum was one of the Colts' midseason acquisitions last season, finishing with 28 receptions 304 yards and three TD catches in nine games. But the Colts and Inman couldn't agree to terms during the offseason. He wound up playing four games for the Los Angeles Chargers before returning to Indy.

He'll try to take pressure off of four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, who has missed five of the last six games with an injured calf and was limited in practice this week.

ROSTER MOVES

The Saints moved quickly to add a pair of free-agent veterans - tackle T.Y. McGill and end Noah Spence - but it remains to be seen how they perform in New Orleans' scheme.

''There's a vision with each one relative to what they do well and how we would use them. They are in good football shape and I'm anxious to see how they do.''

McGill was a teammate of Colts QB Jacoby Brissett at North Carolina State. He wasn't allowed to touch Brissett in practice, but now might get his first chance to sack him.

ARE YOU READY?

Indy is making its first Monday appearance since October 2016.

That might be a bigger deal for some than Colts 2018 All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who enjoyed watching pro wrestling as a kid.

''I'm not going to lie, I watched Monday Night Raw,'' the reigning defensive rookie of the year said. ''But it's really special when you know the whole world is watching.''

Player Notes
Aaron Rodgers Jan 17 12:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.

From RotoBaller

Kendrick Bourne Jan 17 12:00pm ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.

From RotoBaller

Raheem Mostert Jan 17 11:40am ET

San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.

From RotoBaller

George Kittle Jan 17 11:30am ET

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Danny Amendola Jan 17 1:13am ET

Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he's a 'prime candidate' to be re-signed, in the opinion of The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.

From TheHuddle

Antonio Callaway Jan 16 6:33pm ET

Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.

From TheHuddle

LeSean McCoy Jan 16 5:43pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.

From TheHuddle

Morris Claiborne Jan 16 5:43pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.

From TheHuddle

Marcedes Lewis Jan 16 5:33pm ET

Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.

From TheHuddle

Travis Kelce Jan 16 5:33pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.

From TheHuddle

Logan Ryan Jan 16 5:33pm ET

Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Rashaan Evans (foot), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree' Jackson (foot), WR Cody Hollister (ankle) and OT Jack Conklin (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. CB Logan Ryan (illness) and LB David Long Jr. (knee) participated in full.

From TheHuddle

Geronimo Allison Jan 16 5:23pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) was limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: It's an upgrade for Allison after he missed Wednesday's practice. He's likely to be limited for much of the week but should ultimately suit up for Sunday, Jan. 19's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He made just one catch for 11 yards last week against the Seattle Seahawks and isn't worth much more than a desperation flier.

From TheHuddle

Jimmy Graham Jan 16 5:23pm ET

Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: Graham has caught seven of 11 total targets across his last two games, recording 49 receiving yards in each game. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 7 and doesn't possess much touchdown upside, but the Packers have few better options in the passing game outside of WR Davante Adams. He could be a sneaky play at a thin position.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Jan 16 5:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) practiced in full Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: It's Coleman's second straight full practice, and he should be good to go for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19. He's coming off one of his best games of the season, and he'll be worth starting once again in all formats.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jan 16 5:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

Fantasy Spin: Mostert's on track to play in the NFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 19. He took a back seat to RB Tevin Coleman in the Divisional Round game against the Minnesota Vikings, but he was still able to rack up 58 yards and 12 carries. He's worth starting, but Coleman should be viewed as the better option.

From TheHuddle

Dee Ford Jan 16 5:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DL Dee Ford (quadriceps, hamstring) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.

From TheHuddle

Antonio Brown Jan 16 2:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) had his relationship with agent Drew Rosenhaus conditionally terminated Thursday, Jan. 16, until the wide receiver seeks counseling, per a source.

Fantasy Spin: While the talent remains alluring, it's become clear Brown is going to have to make some personal changes before he gets a chance to play again the league.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Jan 16 2:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Fantasy Spin: Great news for Kittle after he sat out Wednesday's workouts with the nagging ankle injury. Unless we hear of any kind of setback later this week, count on him being good to go for Sunday afternoon's NFC title tilt.

From TheHuddle

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 16 1:03pm ET

Updating previous reports, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's one-year contract for 2020 will include a base salary of $11 million and will have $500,000 in roster bonuses and $250,000 in incentives.

From TheHuddle

Odell Beckham Jr. Jan 16 12:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. is the subject of a simple battery arrest warrant issued by the New Orleans Police Department after Beckham appeared to slap a police officer's buttocks in the LSU locker room Monday, Jan. 13 following the College Football Playoff championship game.

Fantasy Spin: While this isn't the most serious of incidents, OBJ continues to make more headlines off the field than on it following his disappointing 2019 debut with the Browns (74 catches-1,035 yards-4 TDs). And if the trend continues, will the new Browns regime say enough is enough for a player brought in by the previous administration?

From TheHuddle